This barrio drama about the ravages of poverty treads familiar ground, but its protagonists speak with an air of desperate of authenticity. Veteran gang-banger Big Joe (Emilio Rivera), newly returned to his violent East Los Angeles neighborhood, realizes that a new breed of street tough has made barrio life even tougher. But life-long buddies Alfonso Carrasco (Greg Serano), Rayno Serrano (Clifton Collins Jr.) and Danny Pacheco (Jacob Vargas) have never so much as considered leaving. Danny argues with his crippled father, who wants Danny to better himself; Rayno frets about committing crimes to support his widowed mom; and Alfonso pours all his energy into seducing women. On the cusp of manhood, the teens respond to the pressures of maturity in different ways. Danny takes a backbreaking job at a bakery after learning that his main squeeze is leaving for college. Ignoring the warnings of his friends, slow-witted Rayno becomes a courier for nouveau druglord, Gramps (Lobo Sebastian), while Alfonso courts a snooty chiquita who places a high price on her virginity. Gramps ensures Rayno's loyalty by shooting a junkie in front of him, thereby implicating him in a serious crime. Rayno is subsequently nearly killed by a rival dealer and robbed of $1500 bucks; in Gramps' eyes, he's now a marked man. Unable to raise that kind of dough, Rayno hides in the shadows of his neighborhood. Alfonso proposes marriage to his now-pregnant sweetheart and Danny wonders if he'll ever be able to please his hard-nosed papa. Danny decides to ask Big Joe for help in cleaning up Rayno's mess, but it's hard to see how Danny, Rayno and Alfonso will managed to free themselves of the barrio's lawlessness. Though writer-director Alfredo Ramos's film has the trappings of a typical urban action picture, the story is built around a kernel of sad truth about stunted ambitions and blighted lives. Though the story comes to a predictable conclusion, the youthful cast adds color to a series of black-and-white situations.
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- Released: 2002
- Rating: R
- Review: This barrio drama about the ravages of poverty treads familiar ground, but its protagonists speak with an air of desperate of authenticity. Veteran gang-banger Big Joe (Emilio Rivera), newly returned to his violent East Los Angeles neighborhood, realizes t… (more)