|EL CHICANO (director/writer: Ben Hernandez Bray; screenwriter: Joe Carnahan; cinematographer: Juan Miguel Azpiroz; editor: Jason Hellman; music: Mitch Lee; cast: Raul Castillo (Diego Hernandez/Pedro Hernandez), George Lopez (Captain Gomez), Aimee Garcia (Vanessa), Kate del Castillo (Cartel Member), Jose Pablo Cantillo (Detective Martinez), David Castaneda (Shotgun), Marco Rodriguez (Jesus), Sal Lopez (El Gallo), Marlene Forte (Susana), Roberto Garcia (Jaws/Mr. Criminal); Runtime: 107; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Joe Carnahan; Briarcliff Entertainment; 2018)|
first all-Latino superhero movie is unfortunately
an uninspiring B movie."
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The first all-Latino superhero movie is unfortunately an uninspiring B movie. It's a cliched and violent urban gang-banger with no redeeming social value. The Mexican-American writer-director, in his directorial debut, Ben Hernandez Bray, is a former stunt man and the TV director of Arrow, DC's Legends of Tomorrow, & Supergirl. Joe Carnahan is a director and here is Bray's co-writer.
It opens with a flashback in East L.A. to 20 years ago, when the masked vigilante called "El Chicano" kills a local crime lord that's witnessed by two boys and their best friend, the crime lord's son Shotgun (David Castaneda). The boys are twins, who have grown as adults in different directions: Diego Hernandez (Raul Castillo) is now an LAPD detective while Pedro (also Castillo) committed suicide after released in prison for gang crimes.
Diego while investigating the execution-style killing of some gang members by a Mexican cartel, convinces his boss, Captain Gomez (George Lopez), to let him pursue his belief these killing were like the one he witnessed as a child by a costumed avenger using an Aztec knife. Gomez assigns to him a Mexican-American partner Martinez (Jose Pablo Contillo), from the Midwest, someone unfamiliar with the drug cartels. After going through his brother's prison notebooks the detective is filled with more clues. Then in a visit to the elderly East L.A.community historian priest Jesus (Marco Rodriguez), he gets more info to pursue his hunch that his brother may have assumed the role of El Chicano himself.
Soon the two detectives have a violent confrontations with Shotgun, who has become a local crime kingpin, and El Gallo (Sal Lopez), the brutal head of the Mexican cartel who is expanding into L.A..
Frustrated by how ineffective the legal system is in stopping gang activity in his community, Diego goes rogue and follow in his brother's costumed vigilante super-hero mode.
When the masked El Chicano kills a bunch of thugs in a criminal hangout nightclub, he appears almost ready to set the record straight about his extra-curricular activities.
The story is clunky and is confusingly told, as it carries on as a macho violent police procedural and vigilante drama masquerading as a super-hero film. It disappoints more than it enlightens, more interested in getting across its Mexican-American culture references than telling a lucid story. The filmmaker's ambitious aim is to launch a franchise, but that might not happen with an opening film so poorly delivered.
Marlene Forte as the Hernandez brothers' strong-willed mother and Aimee Garcia as Diego's dedicated teacher-wife provide solid supporting roles to Castillo's heavy-lifting star turn.
REVIEWED ON 5/1/2019 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
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