It was being billed as a special moment in 2019: an all-Latino cast in a movie about a Latino superhero who would defy Hollywood, but somewhere along the way, El Chicano just couldn’t cut it, and if this past weekend’s box office numbers are any indication, it looks like the film will never reach the popularity its filmmakers were trying so hard to achieve.
According to Box Office Mojo, the movie, directed by Ben Hernandez Bray, had the worst per-screen average of any new May 3-5 release. In fact, the movie had the second worst per-screen average of the top 12 grossing films listed. Granted, the film’s budget was only $6 million, but normally films that don’t do well in the opening weekend, won’t do well in upcoming weekends.
Of course, there will be people who will tell us straight up that movies like El Chicano should be supported no matter, but that type of thinking is a bit simplistic and quite frankly, insulting. When a movie is bad, it’s bad. We saw the film this weekend (for journalism), and we just couldn’t get past all the tropes and stale plot lines that just weren’t good. One hundred and seven minutes never felt so long. And, let’s not forget that co-writer and producer Joe Carnahan decided to not be so classy in his response to critics.
In addition, it almost seemed like the title El Chicano was wasted and appropriated for the sake of mediocre filmmaking. And that just hurts, given the history that “Chicano” has meant for so many.
Which just goes to prove: just because it’s Latino, doesn’t mean that it is good. The cynics will call us enemies of the people, haters of our community or even worse, but why should we as a community settle? Instead of blaming Hollywood too, why don’t we put our efforts and resources into the countless of independent creators who are hustling every day, working with authenticity and raising the bar?
We are sure El Chicano‘s filmmakers would say that they did everything right, and yes, we applaud them for insisting that having an all-Latino cast mattered. We understand that Hernandez Bray’s story is personal, and we applaud that as well. It does matter, for sure, because representation is critical. But when the final product doesn’t match the intention, why should moviegoers stay silent? We paid for a ticket, so we have every right to say that a film like El Chicano made us dooze off for a few minutes. Plus, why do we need to feel shamed for saying that we spent money on bad entertainment and now feel we were duped?
It was a good try that should be celebrated but in the end, the big question to ask is this: Why did the film miss the mark? And even if Hollywood will say that this just proves their point that Latinos don’t support their own films (not true, but still), maybe the question for the community is this: Are you supporting the right voices, and do you truly understand your audience? Also, are filmmakers working with the right people in how they market and distribute their movies?
Maybe one day El Chicano will reach cult-film stature, but even that is hard to do if the film is not good.
Anyway, in case you want to see it (and we don’t recommend it, but still), here’s the trailer: