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El Chicano Reviews

Reviewed By: Jules Fox

El Chicano is a mash-up cop drama and Latino superhero origin story set in East Los Angeles. Like Zorro without the gentile panache, or Desperado without the guitars, the titular hero El Chicano adopts an identity of a masked vigilante and kills a bunch of bad guys, but without style or wit.Twin brothers Diego and Pedro (both played by Raúl Castillo) are on separate career paths in their hood. While Pedro gets wrapped up in the Mexican cartel, Diego is a straight shooter who becomes an LAPD detective. After his brother Pedro's release from prison and possible suicide or murder at the hands of the cartel, Diego watches his childhood friend Shotgun (David Castaneda) get wrapped up with the same group of baddies.Now it's up to Diego to solve a murder case involving a group of executed thugs working for Shotgun. It's possible that Shotgun doesn't care about his goons because he's decided to climb the criminal ladder by teaming up with a new cartel. As Diego gets more involved in the case, he realizes that his brother Pedro may have taken up the identity of El Chicano in order to atone for his sins.While Diego's superior, Captain Gomez (George Lopez), tries to keep him in line, it seems like Diego is offered precious little resources to truly stop the cartel horrors and make a difference in his neighborhood, unless he now assumes the identity of El Chicano, the legendary masked figure who wields an Aztec sword to instill hearts in the evildoers of the barrio.Writer/Producer/Director Ben Hernandez Bray (Supergirl, DC's Legends of Tomorrow) is primarily known for his work in the industry as a stuntman. This may come as a surprise when viewing the uninspired action sequences in El Chicano. The cinematography adds nothing to scenes that are a little too dark, and clunky action that comes in mainly toward the climax. Bray tries to jam in way too much Latino history, and backstory which he claims is semi-autobiographical.Tragically unaware, El Chicano is like watching a dated exploitation film that demonizes Mexicans from South of the US border and bolsters racial clichés about Mexican Americans. The movie takes itself too seriously, missing the cues from other more recent superhero movies, which keep it lighthearted, and humorous. The macho man stereotyping of both the hero and villains as remorseless killers doesn't speak to the movie's underlying theme of identity. In fact, Diego is given very little possible range of emotion. Instead, he is full of machismo and hard stares, all while portraying the Mexican nationals as trigger-happy drug-dealing criminals. This seems like an especially poor choice for a film that attempts to immerse the viewers in Latino culture. Boasting the first all-Latino main cast in over 20 years, drives this point home all the more - the Mexican (and Aztec) lore that provides the backbone for El Chicano's backstory is overshadowed by everyone's bloodthirsty and remorseless murder sprees.El Chicano is niether as action-oriented, nor as bloody as it advertises itself to be. But the movie may resonate with fans of cop dramas who don't mind a third-act foray into superhero territory.