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Bound by Honor
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Reviews & Ratings for
Blood In, Blood Out More at IMDbPro »Bound by Honor (original title)

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73 out of 94 people found the following review useful:

Vatos Locos forever

Author: jhopp21 from Scarsdale, NY
27 January 2000

This is one of those most people saw by mistake, late one night on cable. I did too, and found myself talking about it for weeks. The only thing that keeps this movie from being rated higher is its length. At times it is too drawn out, but for the most part it is well acted, beautifully shot considering the settings, and tells a good story.

I have yet to to find a person who doesn't fal in love with this movie.

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72 out of 102 people found the following review useful:

probably my favorite

Author: wigz from toronto
26 May 2000

I've seen this movie about twenty times and would gladly watch it again anytime.Literally.Damian Chapa has been robbed of any real recognition for what I think is one of the best performances ever to be put on film.Miklo rules.I've never seen the extended laserdisc,but I'm sure it kicks even more ass. This movie will survive the test of time.

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41 out of 47 people found the following review useful:

A "love it or hate it" type of flick

Author: Mike from Pasadena, California, USA
28 June 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Bound By Honor (BBH) is not meant to legitimize or glorify gang life, or ennoble Latino culture. It simply tells a story that faithfully paraphrases harsh reality. If you don't get the story, then it's easy to lambaste the acting and directing. If you do get the story, then the acting and directing are good enough.

Many of the film's characters are people we know: Cruz, full of verve and potential, a victim of the needle; his father, a working class Chicano who wanted better for his sons; Miklo, the fresh-faced well-intentioned misfit driven inexorably to a life of brutality; Paco, the handsome athlete rescued from ruin by the Marine Corp; Juanito, the "mocoso" of the family, whom everybody wanted to protect from the perils of the barrio, tragically cut down nonetheless; Miklo's mom, a party girl ill-prepared to be a mother; Miklo's aunt - strong and responsible - called on to be a mother to her sister's son.

The prison scenes and subplot are quite visceral. Some people find them laughable or unbelievable, but I find them to be neither. Some liberties were taken, but for the most part, I thought prison gangs, corruption, killings, rape, parole boards, and trade were depicted quite well.

There are also universal themes: The meanings of home and family; hard but honest work versus a life of crime; the fickle consequences of youthful foolishness, striking down some while letting others pass; unfulfilled hopes, and other hopes fulfilled in unexpected ways; a family torn apart by tragedy with only time to heal the wound; the struggle to right one's ship; generational gaps bridged only by maturity that comes in the wake of mistakes; the constant questioning of oneself.

It would have been nice to see more character development of women in the family, and some of the actors should have worked on their accents and delivery a little more. Still, I highly recommend this film to anybody in search of a story like the one it tells. To those who don't feel particularly strongly about the material covered, I'd say BBH is no worse than almost any recent big budget film. But to those inclined to greet the *underlying story* with folded arms and a dismissive grin or snort, I'd say spend your three hours watching something else. My verdict: 9 of 10 stars.

Now I'll address some points raised by those who say the film is garbage.

1) "It was too long." It was long, yes, but there's very little I'd have left on the editing room floor. I think if one finds the subject material interesting, then the film moves along nicely, despite its length. Also, I think it's hilarious that so many people who despise the film actually watched the whole darn thing! Any flick that keeps you watching for 3 hours can't be too bad.

2) "Damian Chapa is too white to play a Latino." First, people who say this misunderstand what it means to be Latino, and second, they miss an important subplot. Chapa is a *Spanish* surname, and if Damian Chapa is Latino, then by definition, he's not too white to play one. Latinos of mixed ethnicity are not some Hollywood phantasm, and the treatment of mixed ethnicity and Americanization is a recurring theme in Latino culture in the USA. In the film, Chapa's character is of mixed ethnicity, and as such constantly has to prove he is "Raza" in a way that his peers never do. This constant challenge to his identity makes him fearless and quick to the draw, lest those whose approval he seeks question the make of his blood. For example, that's why *he* is the one to first confront Tres Puntos, not his fellow Vatos Locos. In a culture where fair hair, skin, and eyes are at times a liability, he proved his worth by the only measure his peers valued.

3) "The acting was over the top." Some of the acting that seems over the top is actually not. Gang members quickly learn to communicate by force of will. Also, they are not generally educated or refined, and in their own parlance, one word can mean many things. So the frequent displays of machismo are not necessarily bad acting, and hearing "ese" and "carnal" repeated over and over is not necessarily bad directing, and the convicts' corny one-liners are not meant to be the witty banter of NPR... but yeah, the film could have been toned down a little in some places.

4) "It wasn't true to the time period." Critics said the same thing about Doctor Zhivago, but a good film transcends that, and I believe BBH does. The film covered from ~1970 to ~1985, and I had no problem with the settings. Whatever time period mistakes were made weren't bad enough to distract me from the film.

5) "BBH is a cheap rip-off of American Me (AM)." I saw BBH before I saw AM, so I wasn't predisposed to dismiss BBH as a knockoff. I think AM is depressing and clinical, whereas BBH is uplifting and colorful. Both films cover the same reality and so of course will overlap at points. The same can be said of films about the Vietnam War or the Old West, except that because there are relatively few films about Latinos, the comparison of these two is inevitable. AM is more polished, but BBH is more riveting, probably because BBH makes you care about its characters more. If AM is a sad docudrama with all the loose ends tied up, then BBH is an emotional roller coaster with many questions unanswerable and others simply left unanswered.

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41 out of 50 people found the following review useful:

Blood In Blood Out - Criminally under-rated!

Author: felicia-blake from United Kingdom
26 March 2007

I first saw this film a few years ago when my brother stumbled across it in a bargain basement basket bin! What a travesty for a start that it had not made a bigger mark at the box office and had been consigned to a cheap basket! I'm sure if released with more fanfare this time it would reach the audience it deserves! It is a story of rival gangs, family, love, betrayal, loyalty, acceptance - every film cliché you could think of.

It thoroughly explores the destiny of its 3 young stars as they struggle to make their way with the life path they have taken. I won't give away the plot as I believe anyway who truly loves films should see this film in its full glory with no knowledge of the plot or how the film eventually plays out.

I have been reading the postings, and many negative comments have been made about this film, but I believe this film stands up to much of its unfair criticism.

I will admit though, that I did squirm at some of Miklo's earlier expressions in the film, but a 3/4 of the way through he really picks up the baton and completely takes over. In fact, he is a revelation.

There are some cheesy bits of dialogue, but I don't think this takes away from the piece in any way.

It is a long film, but it needed to be. I don't think there are ANY scenes they could have done without - it is very effective, just the way it is.

Anybody who has seen it and didn't like it first time round, I employ you to rent it/buy it again and give it another try.

I purchased another copy of it again just a few days ago. I watched it yesterday and was still moved - as if it was the first time I saw it.

Its definitely TOP TEN best film material! MUST SEE!

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61 out of 99 people found the following review useful:

....the best....

Author: lun@tick from Rotterdam, Holland
18 August 2000

Not many people have seen the movie over here in Holland, but the people that have seen it, love it. the movie is complete! the story is great, the acting at some times a bit overdone but it doesnt hurt the movie at all. The movie changed the lives of many friends and myself.. It's just the best movie ever. Dont listen to the people that say it sucks... they dont understand the power that the movie has!! la onda is our destiny!!

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26 out of 35 people found the following review useful:

Interesting watch

Author: dinky26 from Chicago, IL.
30 January 2001

I've seen this movie a couple of times and its got its good points and its bad. It's an interesting story, though generally, it perpetuates the "East L.A. gang member" stereotype. However, it also addresses something I haven't seen before in a movie of this type, and something that was perfectly illustrated (unintentionally) by some of the unfavorable reviews posted here. I'm referring to the character of Miklos, and how stereotypes within his own community about "what is Latin" contribute to the person he becomes. There have been a few reviewers here who feel that the character of Miklos was not believable as Latino, as he was "too" white looking. As I understand, that was exactly the point. He was always having to prove himself as 'more latin than thou' because of his fair skin. Somehow being 'more latin than thou' became akin to being a hardest of the hard gang member. I think that was the most compelling idea out of the movie because that sort of thing happens quite often. Many Latinos subscribe to the stereotype that "all latinos are a sort of medium brown". Forgetting that "Latino" is not a race. It refers to ethnicity. You can be of any race and still be Latino. Those who don't fit into the stereotype of appearance sometimes try to find another way to 'be more Latin', and become susceptible to other, more insidious stereotypes. I've known my fair share of blue eyed blond "Miklos" who felt compelled to prove their "Latin-ness" by being a thug. So despite what has to be a record usage of the word "ese", I found this movie a worthy viewing due to the addressing of this topic.

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17 out of 19 people found the following review useful:

Barrio Epic

Author: bkoganbing from Buffalo, New York
16 June 2009

Based on the real life experiences of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, Bound By Honor covers two decades in the latter half of the 20th century as seen through the eyes of half brothers Benjamin Bratt and Jesse Borrego and their cousin Damian Chapa. Growing up more or less together, all three start out as gang bangers, but each has a different destiny and in many ways one's destiny is caused by the actions of the others.

Borrego gets injured in a gang retaliation and works hard to not become a cripple. He does however become both a painter of note and a drug addict of considerable appetite. A tragedy there sets him and Bratt apart.

Bratt also winds up in a feud with Chapa. When both were young gang bangers and looking to retaliate for Borrego, Bratt and Chapa are arrested. Because this was Bratt's first offense he got a choice of the military or jail time and he chose the Marines. Chapa however was sent to prison, to San Quentin to be precise where he joined the Chicano prison gang La Onda. Pretty soon Chapa is high in the gang councils and deep in the politics of the prison. Bratt in the meantime joins the LAPD and destiny makes these two collide.

Bound By Honor has an epic quality almost a kind of Chicano Gone With The Wind. The mostly Hispanic cast do a great job in depicting life in the Barrio. The film runs just about three hours and it's a tribute to director Taylor Hackford that your interest doesn't flag for a minute.

Hackford also creates many interesting supporting characters two numerous to mention, always the mark of a good film. But your interest is always in the three leads. You get to care about what is to become of them, what destiny has in store.

There are certain similarities between Bound By Honor and the Edward James Olmos film, American Me. Personally I give a slight edge to this one, don't miss it if it is broadcast.

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21 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Pleasantly Surprised.

Author: disaia-1 from United States
17 September 2007

I saw this movie by chance and was expecting it to be some low budget flick with gang fights in it, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good this movie was. I put the DVD in and was planning to only watch a few minutes before going to bed, but the movie was so good and interesting that I watched the whole thing.

I'm also surprised this movie didn't win many awards. I notice it only won best director in Japan. This should have at least been nominated for best picture (Schindler's List won that year).

And speaking of surprises, the plot has some good twists and surprises of its own.

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20 out of 27 people found the following review useful:

great story, nice and long so one can enjoy it more than the average flick

Author: tdb-8 from Amsterdam, the Netherlands
21 February 2007

i believe that is one of the better movies ever to come out. a truly amazing story of what life can entail between brothers and how the choices you make defines your direction in life. OK, one might argue that it is rather cheap in the budgetary sense and consequently not a respectable director nor actors are in it makes the flick only more interesting. The acting is however quite good and the prisoners are more than realistic. In other words it gives a nice insight in US (prison-gang)life. On top of that i personally am a great fan of true stories as this is. it is a shame that bad distribution has not given this the place in movie history that it deserves.

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19 out of 30 people found the following review useful:

Mixed reviews

Author: thefensk from North Carolina
26 May 2004

I am quite often moved to comment when a movie has a wide range of good to bad reviews. This movie is a classic case. Several people called it the worst movie they had ever seen, or words to that effect. Is it? Hardly. It also isn't the best movie ever made. It is long, I'll grant the complaints about that, but one of the beauties of video is you don't have to watch it all at one time. Over-acted? I think that has to do with the genre.

Okay, it isn't the best movie ever made. But I can sum up all of its shortcomings with one contraticting word. It is compelling. I can very much relate to the reviewer who mentioned getting hooked on it on tv in the middle of the night. It is a compelling movie in spite of its shortcomings. Even if it seems overacted, it is compelling because it seems so real in spite of the overacting.

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