El Cortez (2006) Poster


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El Cortez Review
Jeffgaucho30 January 2007
In the era of instant gratification, high action car chases, and predictable plot outcomes, it's nice to see a film that exemplifies the definition of film noir. This is what El Cortez can provide for audiences, a smart, dynamic, and unique film noir. Directed by Stephen Purvis, written by Chris Haddock, and lead by Lou Diamond Phillips in an outstanding cast, El Cortez, features all of those things that movie goers love to see. It has mystery, romance, suspense, humor and violence, it's a film that both genders will enjoy.

The film takes place in a local hotel in Reno, Nevada, and it revolves around it's autistic care taker, Manny DeSilva (Phillips), and his mysterious hotel guests. Although most of the actors, besides Lou Diamond Phillips, are unknown, they all deliver spectacular performances. The protagonist Manny, played exceedingly by Lou Diamond Phillips, is a complex middle-aged autistic man, who has a violent past, and is surrounded by people who seek to exploit him for his disability. El Cortez revolutionizes the way that autistic characters should be portrayed. Manny is strong, intelligent, complex, but also very vulnerable. As he tries to make a better future for himself, Manny's violent past catches up with him, and he's thrown into a world of deception, love, and betrayal. Lou Diamond Phillip's performance is not the typical way autistic characters have been represented in previous films, and Manny's character illustrates the complexity and dynamics of autistic people.

"Come to a place where secret's lie," is the tagline of the film, and it illustrates the mystery and complexity of this film noir. El Cortez is full of twists and suspense, however, in an age of constant plot twists (seen in most M. Night Shyamalan's films), "twists" have now become the norm. It seems that ever movie has to have an unsuspecting plot twist, including El Cortez. However, I feel that the plot twist of this film does not flow well, and will not make sense to most audiences. This is the only aspect of the film that I disliked. The rest of the film went against the typical Hollywood norms, but at the end, it succumbed to the typical Hollywood explosions, and a plot twist that's unpredictable, but out of place as well. Overall, I would recommend this film, due to it's humor, mystery, suspense, and charm, despite its typical ending. 2 ½ out of 4 stars.
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What goes around, comes around. I believe in that.
lastliberal18 October 2008
To like a film like this, you have to like two things: Lou Diamond Phillips, and noir. This interesting piece of neo noir is very satisfying for those who like to watch something unfold slowly and try to figure out who is conning who.

Manny (Lou Diamond Phillips, whom I have liked since La Bamba), is a slow, maybe Autistic, desk clerk in a sleazy hotel. He has just been released from an institution for the criminally insane for a murder he committed. He seems to be getting along well on his medication and appears to be a happy joe.

Then all kinds of people start coming into his life: Popcorn (Bruce Weitz) with his gold mine, Jack (Glenn Plummer) the junkie with a hot girlfriend (Tracy Middendorf), and a cop (James McDaniel) who is making life tough for him.

Who among this strange collection is conning whom. What is everyone's motivation? Who is aligned with whom? These are questions that get answered slowly as Manny is drawn into this nightmare.

You have to figure that Manny will manage to come out OK, he just has to. But, will he? And, who will be there with him? Ah, it was satisfying unraveling this puzzle, which kept you guessing until the end.
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Excellent acting in a tightly knit, fast paced film noir
Gregory Haylock22 October 2006
This movie is one of the best I've seen in a long time. The actors all do an excellent job with their characters and the chemistry is definitely there throughout each scene. The setting in Reno is perfect for the whole show of all these character's messed up existences that intertwine so intricately. My only real complaint was that there wasn't really a clear picture of who Manny was before he got to the El Cortez, only a few well placed flashbacks, which left me with questions. I suppose that information was not particularly relevant to the situation that elicited the flashback, so it's no big deal. Through the years I have seen many good movies and read lots of great fiction. This movie is fast paced like so many of its big budget brethren, but unlike many of those big budget films that fall apart at the end, El Cortez keeps you on edge right to the end, like a good page turner novel would. You know the kind, the ones you read through the night to find out what happens at the end. Don't miss this one.
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Gold Diggers
David Ferguson24 March 2007
Greetings again from the darkness. Very interesting screenplay from Chris Haddock suffers a bit from the over-direction of Stephen Purvis. The best parts of this noir sting flick include Lou Diamond Phillips evolving from the drug-neutered autistic hotel clerk (with a violent past) to a much different man by film end. The weakest segments involve heavy-handed over-dramatic moments with much hysteria and theatrics.

While James McDaniel (Lt. Fancy from "NYPD Blue) gets coached into an over-the-top performance as the bad cop, Bruce Weitz (excellent in "Hill Street Blues") joins him chewing the scenes as the paraplegic owner of a supposed fertile gold mine. Strangely Glenn Plummer is much milder in his portrayal of a drug dealer that probably should have been jazzed up a bit. Next to Mr. Phillips, the best performance in the film belongs to Tracy Middendorf as the beautiful, yet not so trustworthy object of multiple affections.

According to director Purvis, filming in Reno was quite painful, but it works very well as the setting. The hotel El Cortez is perfect with its old timey look and feel and, in the end, the Cortez name has a dual role. Definitely worth seeing for the story and Phillips' performance, but disappointing in that it could have been much more.
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A very average thriller
intelearts21 January 2007
Neither really a thriller, or mystery, nor clever enough in its plot, twists, or script El Cortez is a pleasant enough diversion but lacks any real distinction.

The plot is nothing you haven't seen before, the characters are OK, but really below par. The fault may lie with Lou Diamond Philips. He is not a character actor in the mould of Edward Norton and the way he plays Manny is too off-balance for the material. The fact that he plays the ex-com hotel desk clerk like Edward Norton would have just doesn't ring true somehow.

The rest of the cast are good, especially James McDaniel as the cop, but the material is somehow flat. The real fault lies in the way it is shot: too light, and bright. I would have liked the lighting and shooting to have been less TV movie mode and more film noir: more shadows, and less claustrophobic. I felt Stephen Purvis wanted it to be a small tale, which is right, but would have liked to have built more atmosphere. A soundtrack would have helped enormously.

There is nothing spectacularly wrong with El Cortez it just is what it is: a small theatrical thriller that would work well as a stage piece and fails to translate its convictions and menace to film.

Overall, worth watching if you like the genre, but don't expect too much.
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ereinion30 August 2010
I saw this film while on vacation this summer. It was late at night and I didn't feel like sleeping, so I tuned on. To my surprise, there was Lou Diamond Phillips, an actor I always liked, playing a very uncharacteristic part of a hotel clerk who had psychological issues. There were quite a few hot scenes involving Lou and his smoking hot partner. The "love triangle" was also interesting, but Glenn Plummer's character was so loathsome that I couldn't wait for him to be whacked.

I think this was a rather enjoyable film, there was lots of suspense and acting was solid. Phillips has never given a bad performance, despite not being fully appreciated as a drama actor. Here he is very solid and proves his range as actor. There was some violence here as well, but none of it is overwhelming. The plot kinda pulls you in and makes you follow it to the end. Not a great film, but a rather good one. 7 stars.
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Some Murky Flashbacks
bkoganbing2 February 2012
El Cortez is a film that presents Lou Diamond Phillips in an unusual character, an autistic soul who as most of them has an inability to relate to his surroundings. He reacted violently to one such situation and spent some time in a mental institution. Since his release he now has a menial job as a desk clerk in a fleabag hotel in Reno, Nevada named the El Cortez.

Being he's Lou Diamond Phillips he arouses the interest in Tracy Middendorf who is the girl friend of drug dealer Glenn Plummer. Plummer is the jealous type and only through some murky flashbacks do we get a hint that maybe the Lou we see is someone who can handle the situation if the need arises. Lou also has his arresting officer James McDaniel interested as well. McDaniel never believed in that 'not guilty by reason of insanity or mental defect' crap that got Phillips off. If he can't get him behind bars then he'll harass him so that Phillips will be his snitch.

But the worst of it for him might just be Bruce Weitz who is a paraplegic staying at the hotel whom Lou saves from some muggers. Turns out that Weitz is a con man and he's got some kind of gold mine scheme working on a mark played by Peter Onorati.

All these plot elements come together and it's interesting to see how it all works out.

El Cortez is a kind of poor man's Forrest Gump where Lou Diamond Phillips is hardly a fringe player in great events of our time the way Tom Hanks was. The film itself is a minor effort, but what Lou Diamond Phillips does with the character is fascinating. El Cortez is definitely for his legion of fans of which I am one.
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WTF is with the positive reviews? BAD Movie!
abreland93 December 2007
Pretty good actors; pretty good acting; TERRIBLE writing, and a story that is incredibly improbable (make that ludicrously impossible).

What? We were supposed to believe that all these characters just HAPPENED to be in the same place at the same time, and acted so implausibly? There's more logic in a David Lynch movie! And what's with the moral values? It's OK to kill people serially (multiple bodies in the mine, not to mention the cop and the drug dealer) to perpetrate a scam repeatedly -- because the dead people may be crooks, too? "Oh well, as long as EVERYBODY gets hurt." This was a truly bad movie (even though with actors I like -- shame on you Bruce and Lou or Diamond, or Lou Diamond, or whatever you go by!).
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Could Have Been Worse
jeffronthi23 August 2008
Better than 70% of Diamond's work over the past 10 years. The story is plenty nifty, but is lost in a sea averageness. The pacing of this movie I found to be horrendous. The plot twists were slightly contrived and, while not bad, a little tedious. I could have done without that BS ending, as well. Was not satisfying.

I think Lou gave a good performance, as did the young blond. In fact, the cast, along with the seedy lighting and atmosphere of the film, were its only real saving graces. Some of the dialog was rather solid, as well. Wish the script would have been up to snuff.

But since I am a Diamond fan from back in the day, I will take it easy on the film. It is a tolerable film, and could have been worse. I hope Lou keeps striving to choose better roles.

If it's free, check it out.
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