This epic depiction of thirty years of Chicano gang life in Los Angeles focuses on a teen named Santana who, with his friends Mundo and the Caucasian-but-acting-Hispanic J.D., form their own gang and are soon arrested for a break-in. Santana gets into trouble again and goes straight from reform school to prison, spending eighteen years there, and becoming leader of a powerful gang, both inside and outside the prison, while there. When he is finally released, he tries to make sense of the violence in his life, in a world much changed from when last he was in it.Written by
Gary Dickerson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
At the neighborhood party, many of the guests, gang members are wearing modern clothing and modern hairstyles that weren't in style in the early 60's. See more »
Young Montoya Santana:
[Mundo is being devoted into the gang]
Come on, give me your hand. You know what, ese, White Fence, Maravilla, Lomita, they've been around here longer than us, you know. It's cool. We've got our own clika, strong clika. Finally getting into our own, gaining respect.
Our clika, our barrio, our family - that's all we got, ese.
When we were kids, belonging felt good. But having respect, that feels even better.
Young Montoya Santana:
Cause La Primera lives through us. It gives to us. It is us. We make it, carnal, we ...
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This almost qualifies as the "Goodfellas" of Mexican Mafia movies, although it lacks the humor and character development that make the violence wrought by Scorsese's goons somewhat palatable.
Not for the weak of heart, this is one of the more daring works of early 90's American cinema. Violent, ugly and (allegedly) based on true events, the film yanks you into a world that lifelong residents of Los Angeles (like me) have never seen. The film starts with the L.A. zoot suit riots of the 1940's as a backdrop (Olmos portrayed "El Pachuco" in the stage and screen versions of "Zoot Suit"), and chronicles the rise and fall of Santana (Olmos) who, along with his boyhood "crime partners" (the always good William Forsythe and Pepe Serna), becomes the overlord of the Mexican prison mafia.
From the get go, the viewer is yanked down to the violent streets of East Los Angeles, then it's on to Folsom State Prison for some of the most brutal prison sequences this side of "Runaway Train."
This film has its critics - some lambaste the acting as second rate, and some view the dialog as corny (the poetic voice over by Olmos worked for me). Personally, I noticed none of this. I regard this as a very important film that deserves to be seen, now more than ever.
Not quite Scorsese, but light years better (and more socially relevant) than the "Penitentiary" movies. Those who can stomach the brutality will be richly rewarded with a film experience not easily forgotten.
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