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"American Me" is arguably the most significant film not discussed in the same breath with crime epics such as "The Godfather." It was clearly made, both consciously and perhaps subconsciously to be the Mexican Godfather film and that is hardly a bad thing. Its honesty regarding the emotional costs of violence and murder are on par with that film. I don't know what to say to anyone who critiques Edward James Olmos. First, this actor's capacity to convey a complicated range of emotions without words is absolutely staggering and has been seen to great effect in many great films including "Blade Runner." Additionally, he is inarguably the premiere Latino / Chicano filmmaker and actor of all time. If you look at the films he has been involved with, think about how they have dominated the way Hispanic people, Mexicans in particular, have been seen by others who would, largely, not even know of the experiences of their neighbors. "American Me" is so unflinching that, after seeing it, I had to see it again to believe it was actually made by or released by a major studio. Once upon a time studio films featured honest portraits of life but rarely any more. "American Me" tho hardly the knee-slapping comedy some reviewer wanted or expected, conveys an honest sense of the life lived by many without the hope of education or prosperity but with the same need for respect and something bigger than themselves to believe in that you or anyone else has and lives their life by. If you want to see a life perhaps very different than yours depicted with uncommon honesty, watch this film.
American Me (1992) was the directing debut of long time character actor
Edward James Olmos. This film is a historical fiction depiction of the
rise of La Emme, The Mexican Mafia. The movie follows the lives of
three street gang members who by a sad twist of fate end up in
Juvenille Hall. From there they graduate to the big time. Folsom
Prison. Inside the walls of Folsom, the three form the most powerful
gang inside the California Penal System.
Olmos turns the story into a Shakespherian tragedy. A story about a dangerous cycle that repeats over and over within certain communities and how the lack of education can be dangerous. Like they say, an idle mind is the devil's playground. Many of these characters had too much "idle time" before they hit rock bottom. Olmos' direction, editing and use of lighting is that of a long time film-maker. The cinematography complements his directorial style. He makes these figures into noble persons who live and die by a code forged from blood, shanks and sweat. Great stuff from Mr. Olmos, a true masterpiece from a first time director.
Sadly, Mr. Olmos has took a lot of flack for this film and has made some powerful people very angry. If I were him I would have taken a safer route and gave the prison gangs some fake names and cut all ties to any "Technical Support" but that's not his style. He should be commended for his efforts because others wouldn't have the courage or conviction to do this. Mr. Olmos doesn't glamorize the lifestyle either. Although they're men of honor amongst themselves I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. But what people have to do to stay alive in prison should not be looked down upon and on the other hand, when one's on the outside they should leave what they learned within the prison walls. Because it's a whole different ball game out here.
A film that explores the criminal lifestyle in a remarkably brutal and cynical fashion, American Me is the stunningly assured directing debut of Edward James Olmos. Olmos also stars, and gives a terrific performance. Even better is William Forsythe as his lifelong friend and right hand man. This film features some of the most unflinching moments of violence I've seen in a mainstream American film. The violence isn't necessarily graphic, but you generally get the idea. One scene involving a brutal gang rape has deservedly achieved notoriety, and yet it doesn't seem gratuitous. It works within the confines of the story. Olmos should be applauded for this achievement, and it's a shame that this film is overshadowed by other gangster films. It belongs right up there with them.
This is a stunning, disturbing, brutal tale of prison life within the
California prison system, and the Mexican gangs. This movie portrays
very well how ugly, and destructive, this world and this life is.
Well-acted by Edward James Olmos and William Forsythe. Character portrayals are done very well, and you almost wish these guys would come to their senses and turn away from this life. But, deep down, you know this is impossible. Emotionally disturbing portrayal of how Santana's parents horrible humiliation could literally ring down through the years, and sadly affect generations, literally blowing up this family for decades to come. A poignant message as to how the racist past of this country could have such devastating consequences. But, that's just an aside.
Well-done, thoughtful portrayal of both the tight brotherhood these guys were capable of sharing, contrasted with the utterly brutal and vicious methods used to keep order, and to settle scores.
A movie which attempts to show us the varying forces and pressures, and the twisted logic, which make a situation like this possible.
American Me tells the story about the creation of one of the biggest hispanic gangs in California, the Mexican Mafia. It tells the story from the viewpoint of Santana, the co-creator of the gang, from his parents violent youth all the way to the time he spends in prison. An enthralling look at gang violence and how it effects our youth as it becomes a truly vicious cycle. Outstanding performances by James-Olmos and Forsythe really lend credit to the movie. There are some moments of extreme violence, so it may not be suitable for all people. A rating of 9 out of 10 was given.
this had the right amount of story, realism, and a great ending. people say it's too violent, but it's a prison movie it has to be violent, because prison is not sweet. Edward James Olmos is not only brave for doing this movie with actual prisoners and gang members, but he was great at depicting what happens to people when they get involved in a gang and do not do what the gang leader says, because when they tell you to kill someone, that person is going to get killed. either he goes down by your hands, or you end up getting killed with him. one of my favorite movies, i give it a 10/10
This is really a great film, better than its counterpart "Blood In, Blood Out." Olmos does a fine directorial job and acts well, except might have been a little miscast in the part, being that he's supposed to be a young man in his 20s in parts of the film. Outside of that, it's a great movie, violent and disturbing in parts, but thoroughly entertaining. Supposedly the Mexican Mafia wasn't pleased with its portrayal in the film.
Edward James Olmos both directs and stars in American Me with a mostly
Latino cast which depicts a Chicano life influenced both by
circumstances and bad choices. The story with a prologue depicting his
parents during the Zoot suit riots during World War II right up to
almost the present time. Olmos plays a gang leader and we see his rise
and fall in the criminal profession which starts with an arrest as a
It's a stoic and intense portrayal that Olmos gives to his own direction. Olmos did his own research for the part, but more than that he lived it being born and growing up in the Mexican American area of East Los Angeles.
In the story Olmos and his two running buddies, William Forsythe and Pepe Serna while in prison found a Mexican American gang, La Primavera and in prison they pretty much the Latino inmate population. As they gradually finish their sentences and are released the gang takes it shape and control of various rackets in the Barrio. Of course they also have to deal with other gangs, black gangs, Aryan Brotherhood, and some rival Chicano crews. That last sets in motion the downfall of Olmos.
The story is narrated in flashback by Olmos writing a letter to his younger brother while he's back in prison. It's a mournful plea for the kid not to make the same choices he did. American Me is a very good film, the personal project of a very talented man.
I seen this film when it first came out, back in 92 on VHS. The film
stuck in my mind since-there have not been many films like it to date.
Edward James Olmos is magnificent as actor and director. You may not have seen him in many films but he does have a quality about him that casts him perfectly in the principal role of gang leader / drug cartel.
If you like prison films this is one of the best. It hasn't got too many clichés and avoids being overtly pretentious.
William Forsythe is great as Edward James Olmos's buddy and as he-Forsythe-usually does when acting (doesn't try to overact or steal any scenes) he just does the business and blends in as his character engrossing you into the film giving it a more realistic depiction of the setting.
Many prison films usually fit the same formula, showing you the in's and out's, morals and stereotypes usually associated with prison films. American ME just gets right into it and takes you along without preaching those usual morals and overdone cliché characters. This film is on a par with BLOOD IN BLOOD OUT. Check it out!
American Me was the first film to paint an accurate picture of what it can like in America's prison system. Most films in this genre have a Hollywoodized portrayal of live behind bars. Olmos's tale of latino gang life in and outside of prison is right on the mark. This is a good film to show to all those would be gangbangers out there that think prison is cool.
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