Rated R: Strong violence and language throughout.
Playing at: Premiere Cinemas.
Credits: Directed by Ben Hernandez Bray. Screenplay by Bray and Joe Carnahan. Original music by Mitch Lee. Cinematography by Juan Miguel Azpiroz. Edited by Jason Hellmann. Production design by Amy A. Brewster. Art direction by James Phillips. Set decoration by Amber Humphries. Costume design by Jayna Mansbridge.
Cast: Raul Castillo as Diego. David Castaneda as Shotgun. Logan Arevalo as Young Diego. Adolfo Alvarez as Young Shotgun. Also starring Aimee Garcia, George Lopez, Roberto Garcia, Tom Carey and Kate del Castillo.
Bill’s rating: One-and-one-half of five stars
Launching on 600 screens nationwide – and following on the heels of “Avengers: Endgame” and of course “The Black Panther,” co-writer and director Ben Hernandez Bray wants “El Chicano” to be embraced as the latest non-white superhero.
Call him a Batman in the barrio, grittier than your friendly neighborhood Spiderman, and more menacing … with black leather, fighting skills, eye black, a ceremonial mask and an Aztec war knife.
That said, even with Bray and co-writer Joe Carnahan providing an open ending – as if to say we have not seen the last of El Chicano – the duo is resigned to taking a hard look at box office figures and hope the same producers will refinance a follow-up.
Demographics alone say Bray and Carnahan are on the right track. No matter how “Black Panther” fared, a skyrocketing number of Hispanic moviegoers indicates interest in a representative superhero.
On the other hand, their best bet would be to hand the writing chores to someone else. For a number of reasons.
In their view, El Chicano must be a street hero. Having lost family, their hero seeks vengeance rather than provide protection. These filmmakers want to tell a story laced with profanity and violence and both extremely hard core.
At the same time, they want children in the barrio to become supporters and followers of El Chicano.
All of which might work, but more time and thought must be put into the writing – and into the villains.
Moviegoers could form a think tank and provide filmmakers with a more believable list of potential enemies threatening Hispanic children, families and neighborhoods. Who should underground hero El Chicano go after?
Somehow, the “El Chicano” cinematic debut finds the Mexican-Americans of East Los Angeles on one side, threatened by native Mexicans. The latter might be revolutionaries because Mexican crime lord El Gallo lectures more than once about California being land stolen from Mexico. And he wants it back.
Naturally, there also are drug cartels at work.
Filmmakers are on the right trail, utilizing Hispanic talents in cast and crew. But story is just as important and they have yet to create one that will grab viewers. The problem is not budget or lack of talent; rather, it is a lack or clear thinking and an imaginative/gripping story to tell.
Action, by the way, is mostly filmed at night, with editing that only serves to confuse.
Professional comedian George Lopez deserves kudos for giving a dignified, dramatic performance as a police captain who recognizes the long game being played with an urban legend.
Is there a need for a Hispanic superhero story? You bet. But this movie is not the answer and, frankly, I would not hold my breath for an “El Chicano II.”
Gage’s rating: One-and-one-half of five stars
First we had “La Llorona” and now we have “El Chicano.”
But let’s be honest about who they really are: the Mexican nun from “The Conjuring” and pretty much the Hispanic version of “The Punisher.”
“El Chicano” is little more than that, a Punisher-wannabe, saddled with a boring story.
Movie rule number one in my book: Don’t be boring.
A movie can have bad CGI or a terrible story or even terrible acting, but, at the very least, don’t be boring. This movie broke the rule. It is immensely slow; it takes too long before we even see El Chicano in action.
Then there was no satisfaction in watching El Chicano kill a bunch of gangsters. It was, at best, meh.
The acting? OK, at best. George Lopez gave the best performance as Captain Gomez, a man dedicated to his city. Gomez at least intrigued me, making me wonder whether he ever might have filled the shoes (and mask) of a prior El Chicano. That’s more than any other actors provide.
Remaining characters are forgettable. Diego, played by Raul Castillo, is weird, to say the least. He rarely shows much emotion; but then, when he does, he cranks it up to an 11. The constant back and forth does not help his character, and the story becomes more disappointing when he approaches the mask and persona.
Shotgun, played by David Castañeda, and Jaws, played by Robert Garcia, are just typical cinematic Hispanic gangsters. Nothing about these characters stands out.
The film’s few action sequences are poorly edited. People like lengthy, continuous shots of important scenes, where they can make out what is happening. Instead, the director uses so many editing cuts one almost experiences whiplash trying to keep up.
The story offers nothing original or unpredictable. Moviegoers grow bored when they can predict scenes.
There’s that B word again.
Thus far, I cannot recall a year opening as boring as 2019. Now we add “El Chicano” to the list. I am hoping “John Wick 3” lives up to my expectations as a turnaround.