El Chicano (2019)

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A resurrected hero returns to East L.A. in this action thriller from executive producers Frank Grillo and Joe Carnahan.

Thirty years ago, in East Los Angeles, three young kids are playing in the street when one, Juan, returns home and witnesses the death of his crime boss father at the hands of a mysterious vigilante known as El Chicano. As for the other two kids, twins Diego and Pedro have grown up to be on opposite sides of the law. Pedro joined a gang, but apparently committed suicide. As for Diego, he has become a police officer of the LAPD.

When Diego has learned that local crime boss Shotgun had his own gang eliminated, he is shocked to learn the dead sport a tattoo that represented Pedro. Diego is convinced Pedro was actually murdered and decides to investigate. In a shocking twist of fate, Shotgun is revealed to be his childhood friend Juan, whose boss is the head of one of the biggest drug cartels in Mexico. With the help of friend Jesus, Diego discovers before his death, Pedro, a believer of myths and legends, had plans to help Diego. Discovering an old storage closet, Diego learns Pedro wanted to resurrect El Chicano. Diego decides to honor his brother and become El Chicano, the Mexican “grim reaper” and avenge his death as well as put an end to the cartel, even if it means facing off against his old friend.

From executive producers Frank Grillo and Joe Carnahan come this exciting action film involving justice within the barrios of East Los Angeles. When it comes to films in this setting, they usually involve gang violence without any form of repercussion in terms of having heroes. Based partly on a real-life experience, co-writer and director Ben Hernandez Bray came up with the concept of creating a hero of justice for such imminent crimes and making East LA a safe place once again. With help from Carnahan, they have created an action thriller that is a meshing of Daredevil and Zorro.

Raul Castillo is great in the role of the outspoken Diego, who despite having to draw the wrath of his superior Gomez, played in an excellent straight acting role by George Lopez, makes his intentions clear when it comes to proving his brother’s death was murder and not suicide. Granted, it does take affect on his family life with his wife and mother at risk of being in the crosshairs. However, he goes from outspoken cop to quiet vigilante when he discovers his brother’s real intentions upon discovery of the storage closet that will change his life forever. Castillo also plays Pedro in various photos and a few flashback scenes.

David Castaneda is vicious as Shotgun, the former childhood friend of the twins who goes from quiet abused kid to following in his father’s footsteps as a notorious gang leader. He’s ruthless and cunning and we even get to learn his true intentions as to why he is doing what he’s doing. As mentioned, George Lopez can do a great job when given the chance to play a straight acting role as opposed to his comedic roles. Here, he’s great as Gomez, who appears in the film’s opening, warning the future Shotgun’s dad about El Chicano. And in the present day, he’s a stern talking police commander who is at odds with federal agents who insist on making the case a federal case whereas Gomez will do what it takes to make sure it stays within LAPD territory.

When Diego becomes El Chicano, the action scenes are well done. Instead of resorting to stylized fighting, fight choreographer Dan Rizzuto brings a realistic style to the action as he did with his work on WWE Studios’ films. Diego fights many in a nightclub and yes, he suffered some hits along the way, but it is his tenacity and determination that makes him a force to reckon with. Of course, the reason it has that Daredevil feel to things is because we get to see the effects of the aftermath as it pertains to Diego becoming El Chicano.

El Chicano is an underrated action gem with a hero serving justice in what can be considered one of the worst areas of Los Angeles. Raul Castillo is definitely a driving force with his role of the titular vigilante, despite a bit of an over the top performance from both the villain and the federal agents.

WFG RATING: B

Briarcliff Entertainment presents a WarParty Films production. Director: Ben Hernandez Bray. Producer: Joe Carnahan. Writers: Ben Hernandez Bray and Joe Carnahan. Cinematography: Juan Miguel Azpiroz. Editing: Jason Hellmann.

Cast: Raul Castillo, George Lopez, Aimee Garcia, David Castaneda, Sal Lopez, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Noel Guglielmi, Kate Del Castillo, Roberto Garcia, Joe Carnahan.

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