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El Chicano

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
El Chicano Movie Poster Image
Earnest but uneven Latinx crime drama is very violent.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 107 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Story is mainly about violence and vigilantism, but subtext has quite a bit to say about Latinx and Mexican American identity in Los Angeles, with some tidbits about hidden history of California.

Positive Role Models & Representations

As rare as it is to have on-screen Latinx representation in central roles, El Chicano is first and foremost a vigilante who's called in to take care of bad guys when the legal pathway is blocked; his violent actions have no discernable consequences. But Diego is a fairly above-board character (despite some flaws) who may be worth identifying with.

Violence

Lots of guns/shooting and blood, sometimes in spurts. Dead bodies. A mother whips a child with a belt. Martial arts fighting, punching, kicking. Stabbing with a knife. Dribbling blood. Police dangle from nooses. Threats with a chainsaw. Car crash. Explosion. Building on fire.

Sex

Flirting, innuendo, kissing. Skimpy outfits.

Language

Extremely strong language includes "f--k," "motherf----r," "s--t," "bulls--t," the "N" word, "p---y," "a--hole," "bitch," "ass," "d--k," "cabron," "Jesus Christ" (as an exclamation).

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are described as drug dealers. Cigarette smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that El Chicano is a crime drama with an all-Latinx cast that centers on a masked vigilante who seeks justice/revenge. It's very violent, with guns and shooting, lots of blood (spurts, stains, etc.), fighting, kicking, punching, stabbing, fires, explosions, car crashes, and more. A woman whips a child, and people dangle from nooses. Language is also extremely strong, with tons of uses of "f--k," "s--t," "p---y," the "N" word, and more. Some female characters are scantily clad, and there's flirting, kissing, and innuendo. Characters are described as drug dealers, and some cigarette smoking is shown. Despite its good intentions, the movie is convoluted and choppy and falls a little flat, but some mature viewers may enjoy it anyway.

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What's the story?

Twenty years ago in East LA, two boys witnessed the killing of a local crime lord by a mysterious, masked vigilante called EL CHICANO. In the present day, Diego (Raul Castillo) has become a police detective, while his twin brother, Pedro, went to prison and is now presumed dead, and Diego's friend Shotgun (David Castaneda) is leading a life of crime. When the police find the bodies of many slain gang members, Diego uncovers a clue that connects the murders to his own past. Captain Gomez (George Lopez) reluctantly lets him follow up. Diego discovers his brother's prison notebooks and a storage facility that holds more surprises. A visit with an old priest named Jesus (Marco Rodriguez) -- who preaches the untold history of Los Angeles -- provides even more clues. Finally, El Chicano himself appears to put things right. But who is this masked man?

Is it any good?

While an all-Latinx crime drama is an all-too-rare occurrence, the film's attempt to create a cool new hero feels sadly flat. Directed and co-written by stuntman Ben Hernandez Bray (DC's Legends of Tomorrow, Supergirl) and co-written by Joe CarnahanEl Chicano has good intentions and a certain amount of pride. It earnestly tries to represent its own culture on-screen, but it also tries to convey it to a wider audience, resulting in quite a bit of exposition (e.g., translating certain slang words to English). But while the filmmakers are concerned with clarity of words, they seem to care less about telling the story. They use choppy, shaky action, and a convoluted, clunky plot.

The opening flashback doesn't really make it clear which of the young boys grows up to become which adult, and other sequences are equally confusing. Plus, after appearing in the opening 10 minutes, it takes well over an hour for the Daredevil/Punisher-like El Chicano to appear again to take out a nightclub full of thugs. Despite a career in stuntwork, Bray does the usual camera-shaking and erratic editing, hiding the action rather than establishing a clear space for the characters to move in. In the end, despite some character appeal, the movie feels like a disappointment. But a dramatic appearance by Kate del Castillo toward the end suggests that at least one sequel could be on the way.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about El Chicano's violence. How strong is it? Is it shocking or thrilling? Is all of it necessary to tell the story?

  • What does the movie have to say about vigilantism? Is it right or wrong?

  • How does the movie represent the Latinx or Mexican American community? Why is it important to see diverse characters on the screen?

  • Is the dialogue about the history of California true? Did the movie inspire you to do further reading/research?

Movie details

For kids who love thrills

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