El Chicano: review by @Kush_Hayes
Im left with more questions than answers in the 2019 Vigilante Crime Drama from Ben Hernandez Bray and Joe Carnahan. Bray has a thick resume in hollywood with lots of mainstream titles you would be pleasantly surprised to recognize, but its after El Chicano that you should start seeing his name as a director pop up more and more. Joe Carnahan, has some heavyweight titles under his sleeve as well such as Smoking Aces, The (2010 reboot) A-Team, and the upcoming Bad Boys For Life but this is the movie he leans into the drama.
Photos Courtesy of Briarcliff Entertainment.
This keeps getting touted as a Super Hero film, and I get why theyre doing that from a marketing standpoint, especially with the biggest movie in the universe opening last week. But do not be mistaken, the only thing Super about El Chicano is the legend within the movie, which you wish they spent more time developing.
As far as Hero goes, thats debatable. Our protagonist LAPD Detective Diego Hernandez is on the side of the law. And then after the 1 hour mark, our man dons the persona and straight out murders random neighborhood thugs. People think Marvel Comics The Punisher is a hero, and we make references to Daredevil, but they are both vigilantes at minimal and that code conflicts with what the LAPD publicly reflects. Personally, I dont blame him and we will get into that more, but thats what it is.
Our story is kind of complicated. Theres a legend that a masked avenger with many names but known in East Los Angeles as El Chicano, stalks the streets of East Los at night looking for justice. Justice includes stabbing his victims in the heart with an Aztec Ceremonial Dagger to absorb their souls. So says the legend. We know theres a 20 year span between the beginning of the story and when we are following the narrative of Det Hernandez, but we are unclear how long his brother, who plays a major factor in the film, has been dead now. It could be a month, it could be a year. Its not obvious ever. What is obvious is Diegos brother was developing a cult like following to the point where Pedro got twelve men to tattoo his alias and birth date on their forearm. The problem with that is theyre all dead.
Thats all under the first ten minutes.
We unlock a conspiracy that involves Diegos brother, who everyone thought committed suicide but now was definitely murdered. Its this thread Diego keeps pulling on where he discovers that Pedro, his gang-banger felon brother was actually attempting to bettering his life as well as the neighborhood by adopting the persona of El Chicano. And what got in the way of that was Pedro discovered that Mexican Cartel Nationalists are plotting a conspiracy to overthrow or invade the Southern border states of the United States of America including Southern California. Based on events of 1849 between the US and Mexico, the motivations of these Nationalists is to reverse the outcome of that initial encounter and reclaim those states back in the name of Mexico.
A lot of this movie is cast in shadow, we get lots of use of darkness, lots of natural light. I feel like its a stylistic choice, but at 1hr 41mins, gets tired. We get two great scenes where the suspense envelopes the mood. Both have great payoffs, even one where you know somethings about to happen as its telegraphed literally, but completely surprises you with an execution different from anything you thought might come. We get a great introduction to an earlier El Chicano, but you wish we had more, especially when Diego picks up the mask. At our beginning and near our climax we are not witness to the devastation caused by those involved in this conspiracy, but we do see their impact thanks to those
Its confusing as to why this is an R rating, as the violence is pretty tame, and other than some F-Bombs, theres no nudity. I wouldnt bring your kids to this, but its less intense than what “heroes” shows that are currently available on Netflix.
Solid story with lots of potential for growth. Looking forward to the next chapter.
Four out of Six Blueberries