Judge David Johnson used to do a little low-riding back in the day. But he used to call it "running over the curb."
Boing. Boing. Boing.
Rockstar Games, the makers of the controversial yet trillion-selling Grand Theft Auto video game series, has unleashed this one-hour documentary, directed by Carol Strong, looking at the culture of low-riding. You know low-riding, where the guys with more money than you tool around in their pimped out boat/cars, hopping up and down, hydraulics catapulting their rides every which way.
This documentary highlights the Majestics, a low-rider car "club," that goes back decades. We meet members of the club, learn what attracts them to their hobby, their feelings on the authorities, how they tune their vehicles to do the things they do, and the constant challenge to erase the negative stigma that's associated with their ilk.
The roots of the hobby are traced back to the '70s, when vehicle owners first started toying with their enormous conveyances, through the '80s and '90s when low-riding became a staple of the inner-city gang culture, and finally to the resurgence of the pursuit, now with a much more serious flavor of legitimacy.
You'll meet low-riders like Twin and the as-of-the-time-of-the-film Majestics leader Gangster, both of whom hailed from gang backgrounds, and found solace in their cars and low-riding brothers. Interviews with these two dominate the documentary, and are supplemented by other riders, the eccentric but brilliant artist Doc, and even an LAPD police officer who isn't all that thrilled with the low-riding phenomenon.
Strong does a fine job infiltrating the world of low-riding, and brings on some eccentric characters to color the landscape. Gangster is one of those characters. A former gangbanger, he eventually shook off his ties to the lifestyle and embraced low-riding, eventually rising to the top of the Majestics as club president. His thoughts on the matter are pointed, as he bluntly explains the attraction to the club (it's kind of like being in a gang, except without all they gunfire and killing) and his problems with the police bothering them with tickets (aren't there better uses for taxpayer dollars?!?). His cohort, Twin is almost as colorful—if a bit incoherent sometimes.
Ultimately, it was the cars that stole the show. The level of attention that goes into these rides, as well as the proto-aeronautical engineering used to install the hydraulics, is impressive, and a few of these cars, specifically Gangster's "Santana" is straight-up awesome. We're shown what lurks under the hood, how the hydraulics are operated, the process in reinforcing the axle, and the painstaking artistry of the paint job. Strong has succeeded in giving us the nuts and bolts of these machines while supplementing the material with portraits of the people passionate about such stuff. Additionally, Strong's been able to inject some culture into the proceedings, using the L.A. black community where the Majestics run as a backdrop to the documentary.
Finally—and this is probably the best thing to say about a documentary—I learned new things. Sunday Driver kept me engaged the whole way through, and I was exposed to a sub-culture—almost a religion!—that I had never known about. In fact, I was one of those who succumbed to the stereotype that these low-riders were likely wrapped up in some kind of social malfeasance. And while there are negative elements that still arise from the hobby (the officer's testimony, inserted in a non-partisan manner, runs through the talking points), I realized that my prejudices appear to have been largely misplaced.
However, there was one downer of an epilogue, where we find out what happened to our characters since the filming of the documentary. Let's just say that a few of these guys did little to support their thesis of crime-free low-riding.
An attractive 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer transmits the hot streets of L.A. very nicely and the 2.0 stereo mix is adequate, but nothing noteworthy. The extras are highlighted by a load of bonus footage, including more interviews with the central players, a look at where some of the Majestics are currently as well as their cars (in Japan!), and a hydraulics performance display.
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