Photo: Briarcliff Entertainment
Before We Vanish by Steven Warner Film

El Chicano | Ben Hernandez Bray

June 13, 2019

‘Batman of the barrio’ makes for an enticing logline, and Ben Hernandez Bray’s El Chicano presents itself as “the first Latino superhero movie.” But good intentions can’t save a script co-written by fratboy-fave Joe Carnahan, whose career vacillates wildly between gritty realism (Narc, The Grey) and action idiocy (Smokin’ Aces, The A-Team). El Chicano attempts to split the difference, to narcotizing effect. Raul Castillo (We the Animals) stars as Diego Hernandez, an L.A. detective investigating a mass killing linked to a drug cartel, who begins to discover his deceased brother’s ties to the murders. As the system continues to fail Hernandez in his attempt to seek the truth, the detective picks up the mantle of the titular urban legend, a superhero who serves up his own brand of justice.

Thoughtful ruminations on ethnic and ancestral pride uneasily co-mingle with darkly-lit, atrociously-edited action sequences, while an ace supporting cast—including Marco Rodriguez and David Castaneda—try their hardest to enliven the proceedings. Castillo, meanwhile, is at a complete loss, trying for tragic Shakespearean figure even as dialogue like  “The Fed have a major erection over this case, and they’re looking for someone to fuck!” is well beneath the Bard. Perhaps the greatest compliment one can give this misfire is that, even at its worst, the viewer is still pulling for El Chicano to succeed. But the Latin community deserves better than well-meaning dud. We all do.

Published as part of Before We Vanish | Issue 5.