Vigilante Flick El Chicano Subverts Expectations

by Ben Martin

Vigilantes and superheroes go hand-in-hand in certain ways. Both types of characters are all about dispensing justice. But, while superheroes generally play within the lines of the law; whereas vigilantes don’t usually possess that moral code that keeps them from killing off the criminal element. Hence, why Batman invests in tech and The Punisher is constantly making trips to the gun shop. Fittingly, the earliest modern examples the respective vigilante and comic book movie genres came about in the same decade. The original Death Wish (1974) and Superman: The Movie (1978) were released four years apart in the 1970s. Since then, the vigilante subgenre has been a tried-and-true cinematic staple; as has the parallel genre of the comic book/superhero movie.
The latest example of the vigilante picture comes in the form of El Chicano. Set on the streets of East L.A., the film follows a young detective named Diego who is working a case involving slain gang members with a connection to his recently-released ex-con brother, Pedro. (Both of whom are portrayed by Raúl Castillo.) As more examples of street justice occur, Diego suspects that someone is taking up the mantle of the urban legend, El Chicano. Now, Diego must find out who this “Ghetto grim reaper” is and bring them to true justice.

Like numerous other movies throughout history, El Chicano falls victim to being marketed in a misleading fashion. The film is marketed like it’s going to be some bad-ass, action-packed romp that is essentially a tale of a Mexican Punisher. Alas, the first two-thirds of El Chicano is actually a slow and stereotypical police procedural. It’s not until the film’s third act that the movie that’s been sold actually begins. By that point, it was just too little, too late. Instead of being satisfied by a flick that subverts expectation, I was disappointed and left wanting an actual movie about the vigilante El Chicano.

While I found this movie to be a disappointment, I should note that it’s competently executed by the director and co-writer Ben Hernandez Bray. However, you can tell he comes from TV, as El Chicano has a very generic television look to it. Sadly, this generic approach also affects the film’s cast. See, the supporting cast of El Chicano is quite good. However, star Raúl Castillo (Atypical) is as bland as they come and frankly lacks the charisma to carry this movie. In the end, I feel that El Chicano had potential. But because the movie in review spends nearly all its time setting-up its titular character, that potential is never met. If you dig police procedurals, the film in review might be a good fit  for you. But, if you want to actually see a movie that’s truly about a vigilante, I cannot recommend El Chicano.

El Chicano is In Theaters Now!

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