:00AM Wednesday September 05, 2007By Francis Grant
The Auckland tribe known as central-city office workers might like to take a look at new Kiwi drama Ride With The Devil (last night, TV2, 11pm), if only for the nostalgia.
There was a time when Queen St was not a bombsite packed with earth-moving machinery, demolished buildings, plastic pedestrian barriers and ringing with the soothing sound of pneumatic drills.
Once upon a time, the premier street in the nation's leading city offered easy access to its wealth of American coffee franchises and $2 shops. Yes, it was a vibrant strip, also home to that other tribe, the boy racers, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights.
Ride With The Devil captures Queen St in all its bogan, late-night glory and gets instant merit points for surely being the worst nightmare of mayoral candidate and anti-hoon campaigner John Banks (anti-hooning on tarmac, at least - the high seas and jetskis being another matter).
Apart from that obvious appeal, this is a minority drama, reflected in its unfriendly time slot, although you'd think the audience for grunty cars and fast chicks might actually be out indulging in their passions at the time of screening.
Those of us tucked up with our cocoa can experience the vicarious thrill: you can fairly smell the testosterone, the petrol fumes, the smoking rubber. And then there's the acrid odour of all those expletives burning up the script, which is probably the prime reason for that night-owl time slot.
The show is billed as fast-paced and high-octane and it's certainly that. So much so that protagonist Lin (Andy Wong), a performance-car-crazy Chinese student, had the Kiwi accent even before he stepped on the plane to New Zealand from Beijing.
The chrome and mags-mad Lin isn't too fussed on business school and all that droning on about equity, management practice and human resources. Within seconds of arrival, it seems, he's found the late-night petrol-head scene and sold his soul to the man who can make his hot, throbbing car dreams come true, an ex-con called Kurt (Xavier Horan).
Ride With The Devil is also being hailed as the first local drama to feature an Asian lead character, although Lin and his cousin Amy (Caleigh Chung) - a paragon of demure Chinese studiousness by day, skanky ho' and driver of a mean machine named "Ikandi" by night - aren't terribly believable characters. Still, improbability is a small price to pay for a valiant attempt at breaking cultural stereotypes. Shame the giggling Maori mobile phone shop owner and the Polynesian rap dude aren't so lucky.
It's not clear yet who the Devil of the title is, although Amy could be a contender.
She's a devil who embraces diversity, however: her gang of slags include a blonde, brunette and a brown babe. Other candidates are Kurt's controlling policewoman sister and those South Auckland loan sharks circling round his struggling car-modification business. And as former local soap watchers know, it wouldn't pay to rule out mum, played by former Shortland Street dragon-lady Lynette Forday.
Speaking of whom, there's another cultural subtribe being well served by this drama: the cache of former Shorty stars it's let back out on the streets.