New Jersey Drive

Director: Nick Gomez
Screenwriters: Nick Gomez

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Get ready for total immersion into the lives of a group of teenage boys who steal cars because it’s easy, fun, and good money. Inspired by real events aired on the eleven o’clock news, director Nick Gomez returns to the streets with the follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut feature, Laws of Gravity.

New Jersey Drive follows the daily existence of some good friends, the hardships they must face, and the way they get their kicks when they just want to forget it all. Jason Petty, through whom the story is recalled, and his crew—Midget, P-Nut, Ronnie, Tiny Dime, and Richie—like to steal cars and joyride. Jason plans to go to mechanic school, but enjoys spending the summer hanging out with his crew and doesn’t appreciate his mom’s constant warnings that he is heading for a fall.

In the run-down Newark projects where these boys live, stolen cars are a status symbol, and pretty much any car is fair game, from a no-frills Honda Civic to a tricked-out four-by-four, to a passenger van with a Clergy sign still on the windshield. The bolder they get, the more frustrated the Newark Police Auto Theft detail becomes, until the crew goes joyriding in a police squad car, and Roscoe, a cop with a mean streak and a chip on his shoulder, decides to take the law into his own hands.

New Jersey Drive makes no judgments about these characters and the lives they lead, even if the distinctions between good and evil seem simple at first. Even if the law no longer protects them, and they are consumed by poverty, deadened to violence, and thrive on danger, Gomez is careful to portray Jason and his crew as good friends and basically decent kids who are products of their own harsh environment, rather than hardened criminals. The choice for them is either joyriding and hanging out in the projects, or becoming fodder for the meat grinders of the criminal justice and penal systems.

Excellent ensemble performances that effectively convey volatile friendships, blended with bleak urban locations, have produced a film that, although saddening and frustrating in its portrayal of the reality of urban lawlessness, is not without hope for future redemption.

— Christian Gaines

Screening Details

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