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Eastside Reviews

Part action flick and part coming-of-age saga, this formulaic slice of barrio life is best appreciated by leading man Mario Lopez's loyal fans. Upon his release from prison, 21 year-old Antonio Lopez (Lopez) harbors dreams of becoming a big-shot investor and envies his uptight older brother Horacio's (Mark D. Espinoza) cushy job at a prestigious law firm. But Horacio hasn't moved as far from his ghetto roots as Antonio imagines; he works as a high-priced problem solver for slum kingpin Armando De La Rosa (Efrain Figueroa). De La Rosa wants local Good Samaritan Mr. Gutshan (Richard Lynch) to sell him his recreation center, and when Horacio fails to persuade Gutshan that the barrio needs De La Rosa's proposed gambling casino, De La Rosa hires Antonio as an enforcer. Working his way up the ranks of the shakedown rackets, Antonio proves an asset to De La Rosa's empire. Unfortunately, Antonio falls for Gutshan's beautiful niece Claire (Elizabeth Bogush). Having gained Gutshan's confidence, Antonio can't bring himself to rough up the old man. Eager to build his gambling emporium, De La Rosa orders a hit on Gutshan. Later, when Horacio steals from his boss, De La Rosa eliminates him, too. But Horacio leaves behind incriminating evidence against De La Rosa. In a surprise reversal of fortune, Gutshan bequeaths his coveted property to Antonio, instead of Claire. Should Antonio honor the wishes of his dead benefactor and avenge Horacio's assassination, or should he grab the financial windfall De La Rosa promises? With its conflicts mapped out in neon letters and its resolution painted in glow-in-the-dark colors, this cautionary tale about easy money simplifies its crises of conscience. Although sturdily acted, it's basically a PSA aimed to point repeat offenders poised away from the path to perdition and on to the road to social service