East L.A. Warriors (1989)

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In this early film from the makers of some of the major action B-films of the 90’s, one man prepares to make the wrong things right in the barrios of East Los Angeles.

A drive-by shooting at a birthday party leaves a six-year old boy and a member of the Lobos gang dead. The ones responsible are a rival gang known as the Boppers. The Lobos, led by Hector, wants total retaliation against the Boppers. However, Paolo, the brother of the gang member killed in the shooting, wants real justice to prevail with no course of action.

Meanwhile, the police want to clean up the crime circling around East L.A. Meanwhile, top crime lord Chesare has set up “The Games”, a fight ring where the gangs have the chance to settle the score by competing in a ring. The gang member with the upper hand will be given a gun to kill his opponent. To stop Chesare, the police request the help of Aurelio (Tony Bravo), a former gangster who just wants to lead a normal life. With all the chaos that surrounds them, it will not be long before Paolo and Aurelio will cross paths and will have to do what is right.

An early film from PM Entertainment, this film truly had some potential. However, the film tries to play itself as a cross between The Karate Kid (1984) and in some ways, The Warriors (1979) all set in the crime-ridden area of East Los Angeles. With a cast from Welcome Back Kotter’s Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs to musician and actor Kamar de los Reyes, this should have been better. However, for this being a B-film, the contrived acting is somewhat expected.

Most of the movie plays out like a cheesy Lifetime movie, with the attempt to give the viewer a strong anti-gang message. Granted, the meshing of two character studies would have worked with the right chemistry, but the chemistry between Tony Bravo (as reformed gang member turned mentor Aurelio) and Kamar de los Reyes (as pacifist turned fighter Paolo) seems more forced rather than smooth. As for Hilton-Jacobs, he really hams it up as Chesare, the gang lord in charge of setting up the fight ring, using some kind of awful accent.

There aren’t many fight scenes in the film as opposed to guns blazing. However, when the fight scenes finally do come, are they watchable? While PM would later unleash better quality fight scenes in their films, the result here is not too great. There are shots of PM’s trademark use of double takes used, but it seems more like the actors fighting don’t look to have that great screen experience. Kamar de los Reyes seems to be the best fighter of the cast, but his climactic fight scene just wasn’t exciting as he made his adversary look pretty horrendous.

East L.A. Warriors is what you can call more of an “experiment” from PM Entertainment. They get an A for effort, but this one just was not as exciting as their future films.

WFG RATING: D+

A PM Entertainment Production. Director: Addison Randall. Producers: Richard Pepin and Joseph Merhi. Writer: Raymond Martino; story by Addison Randall. Cinematography: F. Smith Martin. Editing: John Dagnen.

Cast: Tony Bravo, Kamar de los Reyes, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Sabino Villa Lobos, Jastereo Coviare, James Dalesandro, Dianne Heyden, Dan Moreau, Debra Lee Giometti, William Smith, Jack Rubio.

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