A young street artist, Danny, in East Los Angeles is caught between his father's obsession with lowrider car culture, his ex-felon brother and his need for self-expression. Danny puts his graffiti artist skills to use and paints murals on the hoods of lowrider cars to help his brother win an upcoming competition.
"Lowriders" is engaging, interesting and entertaining.
Lowrider is a term that refers to a certain type of low-riding car and the people who drive them. Lowrider cars have been modified with hydraulics so they can be raised or lowered by the flick of a switch and many of the cars can also bounce. They also have wire-spoke wheels, whitewall tires and detailed unique designs painted on them. Lowrider culture developed among the Mexican-American community in Los Angeles in the years following World War II. The hydraulic modifications came about after California passed a law making it illegal for any part of a car to be lower than the bottom of its wheel rims. The ability to adjust the height of the chassis allows the driver to skirt the law by raising the car when law enforcement is in the area and lowering it again after the danger of getting the lowrider impounded has passed. The painted designs are also a statement of individuality, celebrating Hispanic culture. These various aspects of the East L.A. car culture are found throughout the drama "Lowriders" (PG-13, 1:39) along with the emotional story of one family being pulled apart by conflicting values.
Danny (Gabriel Chavarria) is a Mexican-American high school senior who's torn between his priorities and those of his father, Miguel (Demián Bichir). Miguel is a widower and recovering alcoholic who owns a custom garage and wants nothing more than to win an annual lowrider competition with his 1961 Chevy Impala, "Green Poison", which sports a hood design painted by Miguel's father. Danny considers himself an artist, but his canvases have all been L.A. bridges and buildings. After Danny gets arrested for a particularly dangerous graffiti stunt, Miguel is beyond disappointed, telling Danny that he's turning out just like his brother, Francisco (Theo Rossi), who people call "Ghost" and who is spending time in prison.
When Ghost is released from prison, he angers his father by taking Green Poison cruising with Danny along for the ride and announces that he's competing against Miguel in the upcoming lowrider competition. As the tension between Miguel and his older son rises, Danny continues fighting for his right to make his art. He starts dating a photographer named Lorelai (Melissa Benoist), who helps Danny get his art noticed, but not the way that he wants. The result of that lowrider competition accelerates the escalation of tensions between Miguel and Ghost, putting Danny in the middle, and leading to some serious consequences. In the midst of all this, a local police detective (Cress Williams) is repeatedly involved in the family's turmoil, Danny's best friend, Chuy (Tony Revolori), gets caught up in this whole mess and Danny's new stepmother, Gloria (Eva Longoria), is fighting to keep the family together.
"Lowriders" is engaging, interesting and entertaining. Although the details differ from family to family, the film's drama is something to which most people can relate. The script, by several writers, including Elgin James ("Little Birds") and Cheo Hodari Coker ("Notorious"), sometimes has the various family members take some nonsensical actions, but the strong cast (especially Bichir and Rossi) helps sell the story. And, thankfully, this is one movie about Mexican-Americans that has nothing to do with drugs (except for some alcohol). For many Movie Fans, the main attraction will be the vehicles of the film's title. Director Ricardo de Montreuil (helming his first American feature) celebrates lowrider culture without deifying it. The movie's balance makes it easy to enjoy seeing and learning about these rolling murals, which really are mechanical marvels, along with Danny's struggle for acceptance and the poignant family drama at the film's heart. "B"
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