On a Wednesday night, I dragged my husband to a 9:35 p.m. showing of El Chicano. We are in our mid-thirties, so going to a late-night viewing is a big deal, but we support all things Latinx, so off we went.
I knew little about the film other than it was a story about a Chicano superhero starring Raúl Castillo set in East Los. A Latino Superhero! Played by Raul Castillo, who has done beautiful work like We The Animals. I didn’t need to see a trailer. I just needed to go spend my money to support a Latino cast, producers and writers.
I should have read some reviews, someone should have warned me, because what played on screen was one of the most irresponsible pieces of content I have ever seen in my life.
In the opening scenes of the film, a cop, played by George Lopez, shows up to harass a group of cholos partying in their front yard. He’s looking for information on the killing of two cops. Predictable, yes, but I didn’t want to write off the film in the first two minutes. The action continues to a scene where El Chicano, our vigilante superhero, kills in cold blood a cholo in a wheelchair. Why? We don’t know.
I don’t remember Batman killing anyone in COLD BLOOD. Aren’t superheroes supposed to be complex? Aren’t they supposed to wrestle with what is right and wrong? They are layered and have complicated feelings about human life, and when a life must be taken to save the world. But not our Chicano superhero. He is a savage. Deadpool style, but with zero humor.
I’ve only ever walked out of a movie once, in 1999. It was only because my mom made me take my eight-year-old brother with me to the movies with my friends and we were watching South Park: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut. When my brother asked, “What is a clitoris?” I knew it was time to jet. So I wasn’t about to walk out on El Chicano.
Halfway through the film, it’s been established that Diego, played by Castillo, is a cop whose brother took the “wrong” path and ended up in prison for selling dope. Not Diego though, he is a detective, he’s an upstanding citizen. A hero even before he puts on El Chicano’s mask. This is where things start to go from bad to worse to harmful.
Through a series of predictable plot lines, Diego becomes El Chicano and sets out to avenge his brother’s murder at the hands of none other than the big, bad, Mexican cartel. The Jefe doesn’t only want to control the streets of LA by selling dangerous drugs, he wants California returned to Mexico. But El Chicano he lets him know, “This isn’t Mexico,” and “You will die on American soil.”
Never mind that El Chicano’s powers come from an Aztec knife. His bat cage is decorated with a plethora of Aztec Warriors wall art. His mask looks like the “Jaguar Warrior Vector” on Shutterstock. This superhero wants to rep all things Aztec, but doesn’t seem to like Mexicans very much.
This film draws on every imaginable Latino stereotype—the cartels, the ganster Cholos, the drugs, the violence, the dangerous Latino man who is coming to take your streets. And it goes further, pinning U.S.-born Mexicans against Mexicans born on the other side of the border. I didn’t think it could get worse. But this film kept shocking me with its poor imagination and laziness.
Later in the film, a police station is blown up by the Mexican cartel, sending El Chicano on a killing spree. He saves a woman cop from being hanged. It’s worth noting she was maybe the third woman in the film with any lines. After killing the man responsible for his brother’s death, he awakens in an ambulance with his mask and cape gone and his police badge around his neck.
The film ends with George Lopez comparing the police station bombing to 9/11. Yes, to the worst terrorist attack our country has ever experienced. Imagine that! A film making a direct line between Mexicans, terrorists, and 9-fucking-11. No wonder people are scared of us. We are doing this to our own community, perpetuating dangerous narratives and adding some Tajín on top.
As for Diego —the detective, vigilante superhero— he is given a medal for his efforts to keep East Los safe. That’s probably about the only thing the film got correct. A cop being allowed to kill whoever he wants, with zero consequences and medals around his neck.
Julissa Arce is a speaker, writer and nationally best-selling author of My (Underground) American Dream and Someone Like Me. She was named one of People en Español’s 25 Most Powerful Woman of 2017. She is a leading voice in the fight for social justice, immigrant rights and education equality. She tweets from @julissaarce.
Thank You for telling la verdad. And don’t be surprised if POTUS45 uses this in the up coming election to paint us into a corner again
I read your responses and reviews on n Chicano I have not seen it so I cannot speak out of turn however the bigger picture for me is that there were able to get on all Chicano Latin American Mexican American Independent producers and writers we’re early on Anglo-Saxon directors and producers were not take this on in that respect I did not prioritize the plots that this film represented I believe what’s more important is that we were able to independently create our own hero movie regardless of the greatness or lack thereof the hero himself I get tired I’ve seen a white American hero globally as the only kind of hero that is acceptable to that respect these films will get better
It’s always one of our own that will publicly condemn any effort that is made to bring a cast forward that represents for our people. Self Hate is a strong drug…
Given the film’s plot we should stop calling this a Chicano Super hero movie. If anything it’s a “Brownsploitation” film without the consciousness or critique of the earlier African American genre. In those film the anti-heros were critical of the system thus embraced by the community. This film is basura. It’s gonna fall under it’s own dead weight. And no, it’s not just about representation, it’s about the quality of representation. Can Latino Rebels please hit up George Lopez and and Raul Castillo and ask why their need to be uncritical attention getters took priority over representing the community truthfully and faithfully? On other point to be made: Hollywood uses these shitty movies as examples that the Latino community doesn’t patronize it’s own movies thus always demanding white star power as a requisite for Latino projects. I’m so let down by the Latino actors, writers, and producers of this film. The Latino community has nothing to be proud about with productions like this and those responsible for it should know it.
really dumb , obviously one sided review. You rip on the film for personal opinions and not for the film itself, this is a political or heavily biased review
crybaby, stop being a crybaby, remember films are fiction, and if you worried about how it makes us look or influences us, well then thats a self problem, i didnt know we mestizos had so many woosies
Dear Ms. Arce.
Thank you for your review. I couldn’t DISAGREE more!! YOU are the reason why only Action Adventure lovers like myself ( who have read comic books since I was 7) should rate this movie.
This is NOT a documentary. Nowhere does it say that. This is simply another fantastic Action Adventure movie that has MORE to do with ZORRO than SuperHeroes like Deadpool.
You should leave the comparisons of comic book heroes to those of us who read them. I can tell you from 40 years of reading comics.. this hero is NOTHING like them.
Did you mention where this story takes place? LA. YOU forgot to mention is takes place in one of the worse neighborhoods in LA filled with drugs and Murderers.
The man in the wheelchair was obviously the man controlling the drugs in his hood( like a mob boss) and needed to die.
It was filled with tons of action adventure tons of suspense And in my gringo mentality Mexican pride.
You missed the enjoyment out of the movie because you were looking for some kind of documentary on Mexican people, this was not the reason for the movie.
I wholeheartedly invite all action adventure fans to watch this movie and just sit back and relax and enjoy an original story about a Mexican hero .
And FYI, there have been plenty of of stories were Batman does take a life but more importantly if you’ve ever seen how graphically he beats people almost to the point of death you would realize the modern superhero is not as clean cut as he used to be back in the 1950s .
Thank you again for your biased review.
My review comes from a Caucasian male in his 40s who simply wants to watch a good movie .
Who was the guy that kill the wheelchair man
It was an interesting movie. I love the attempt to cast 100% Latin/Chicano/Mexican American cast. I hope that continues and the producers learn from this and get better. We have to start somewhere – before there were great Black movies there were first efforts.
First off “stop with this “b.s Latinx! It’s Chicano!! The more movies we do “it will get better..