|Index||4 reviews in total|
This movie is pretty ingenious and you can't help but get hooked as
soon as you realize the hero is building an airplane to fly over the
Mexican border. I won't reveal if he makes it or not, but just try
walking away once this movie starts.
Mark Christensen has made a movie with a great idea at it's core and is poetic and smart in it's execution. Douglas Spain plays Bondo, a smart kid from the sticks, poor and dreaming of America. But American Flyer is also very funny and nuanced in how it handles the heroes journey.
I loved the fact that Bondo is building his airplane from spare auto parts. Douglas Spain is great as this ambitious everyman. Another movie might have made him a clichéd genius surrounded by clownish inferiors, but Bondo is very real, he's bright but limited. Spain captures a sort of frustrating single-mindedness in this character. We follow Bondo on his adventures around Mexico, rounding up mechanical parts, evading traps and dealing with an oddball cast of characters.
Patricia Rae is particularly heartbreaking as his cousin, she is both erotic and sad as she attempts to play the men in her life but instead, they play her. Danny Trejo has a rare chance to show his warmth as Bondo's uncle and he is just as great a screen presence as he is when he plays a bad guy. I liked the way the movie subverts stereotypes and portrays Mexico and Mexicans as a varied and diverse civilization, with no easy generalizations drawn. Even Tijuana is shown to be both menacing and enticing, Christensen shoots it beautifully, in a fluid, almost musical style. But that's not the best part of this movie - the best part is the villain.
The homemade airplane and Bondo's plan seem completely plausible and yes, you root for the good guy, but I swear, it's this villain - the total scumbag corrupt cop, 'Gonzales' - that you secretly root for. Julian Scott Urena, who plays Gonzales, almost steals this clever movie from the hero and everyone else, including the girl, Danny Trejo and even from the airplane.
Without getting into all the twists and turns, Gonzales, the chief of police for Tijuana is trying to stop Bondo from leaving Mexico for the North. And Urena makes his character - who tortures, kills, double-crosses, etc - compelling and sympathetic. Gonzales takes it very personally that Bondo wants to leave Mexico - Chief Gonzales loves his homeland and he should - it's been good to him. His rage is believable and frightening because he is wounded by the entire concept of Mexicans going North over the border.
This migration North saddens and infuriates Gonzales and Urena takes you along for this emotional ride. You feel his sadness morph to anger and his rage build, it's menacing, he's out of control, but Urena/Gonzales actually convinces you that there is something even worse about Bondo's American dream. Funny, believable and wildly threatening, Urena is like a psychotic one-man Tijuana Chamber of Commerce.
Urena's performance reminds me a little of Orson Welles corrupt sheriff Quinlan in "Touch Of Evil", he rolls around town, showing up everywhere, manipulating the sharpest hustlers in town, lying, cheating and very charming. And Urena's made this character surprisingly resonant because he's motivated by so much more than just greed. It's great stuff in a good movie.
First off a total disclaimer. I know nobody associated with this film.
Furthermore I had never heard of it before this week.
I found this movie posted in a Usenet newsgroup and after reading the plot at IMDb I decided to give it a go. Although a gringo I have spent almost my entire life near the border at Tijuana.
I am particularly partial to independent movies made with love and care. With small budgets some filmmakers craft interesting and even surprisingly good films because they have a story to tell and are dedicated to a vision of how to deliver it.
The plot is rather simple. A good boy from a poor part of Mexico arrives in Tijuana hoping to earn enough money to cross the border into the United States "and become rich". It is not without problems but he survives in the big city because he is a good boy with ideals and is easy to like.
Without going into the story, he becomes enmeshed with a corrupt Tijuana police official. Will he make it to the U.S. safely? A raucous finish to the film makes this movie especially enjoyable.
If you have any background with the plight of Mexicans you will understand this movie and be rooting for the boy.
When I watched this movie, I was not sure what to expect. However, it
had all the elements a great film has. You bonded with the characters
and cheered for them in the end. There is the bad guys and the good
guys, but it is not a good vs. evil story. You also get to laugh and
cry. You truly feel for the characters the writer has created.
It is a touchy subject matter for many Americans, yet it is told without a bias. It is a good movie to watch, regardless of how you feel about this issue. To add to it, this is not a big studio film, but rather an independent film completely done by the writer. That adds to it in that it is a true American dream! I highly recommend it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Well clearly the other reviewers saw something in this film that I did
not. I was bored after 20 minutes, catatonic after 70. If the story had
started at that point and concentrated on Bondo's attempts to make his
fortune in the US then we might have had a pretty decent film. Alas the
build-up to his flight is tedious and unrealistic.
The faults lie not with the actors but with the script. The characters are superficial and the bent cop in particular is quite ridiculous. Here is a drug dealing murderer portrayed in a light-hearted, almost farcical way. The guy who shot Bondo's father and is trying to kill him, comes across as a sort of pantomime villain. It just doesn't work.
The film is nicely shot and looks pretty but I'm sure Tijuana has many problems that are simply glossed over here. People do not risk their lives crossing borders because they are dreamers, they do it because they are desperate.
This could have been a good movie but poor vision on the part of the writer and director have stripped it of any meaningful value. Watch it if you can't sleep.
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