Bratt, Jesse Borrego, Jeremey Ray Valdez, Talisa Soto, Kevin
Michael Richardson and Erika Alexander
La Mission, set in the
streets of San Francisco's Mission District, is easily the
most powerful Latin-interest film released in years.
Peruvian leading man Benjamin Bratt's brother Peter Bratt
directed the film, which focuses on the relationship between a
macho bus driver and his son.
Benjamin Bratt is nothing
short of brilliant as the tatted-up Che Rivera, a recovering alcoholic with a passion for lowriders, and pride
for the academic achievements of his son Jesse. Bratt
channels his inner pachuco with genuine swag, in a role
destined for him to play.
Che is old-school Chicano
to the bone, which makes for tremendous conflict when he
discovers his son's sexual orientation. Rivera's son
Jesse is played by Jeremy Ray Valdez, a young Latino with
serious acting chops, and an infectious smile. Valdez
and Bratt share an incredible on-screen chemistry as father
and son, and Rivera's intolerance is something many Hispanic
viewers will recognize. The stigma attached to
homosexuality amongst old-school (and largely Roman-Catholic)
Latinos is something almost never confronted in film.
For those of you already
saying, "Chale, I'm not going to watch this," calm down.
This isn't a "gay" movie, but it does address issues that
Latinos tend to sweep under the rug. Jesse's orientation
serves as a means of revealing who his father Che really is,
and uncovering the pain and rage that needed to be healed in
the ex-convict. Helping Che battle his inner demons is
Lena, the earthy and extremely sexy neighbor who works for a
woman's shelter. Played by beautiful morena Erika
Alexander (of Living Single fame), Lena attempts to heal the
rift between father and son, while dealing with her own fears
of Che. Before the film is over, expect plenty of love,
anger, and loss.
The rest of the supporting
cast also make for an interesting movie. Jesse Borrego,
best remembered as the artist Cruz from Bound by Honor, is
reunited on-screen with his compadre Benjamin. Bratt's
wife Talisa Soto, playing the gorgeous wife to Borrego's
character, also rounds out the cast of well-known Latino
actors. One of my favorite inclusions to the cast
was talented voice actor Kevin Michael Richardson, who adds
plenty of great comic relief to keep the film light.
Perhaps the best aspect of
this film is that it's genuine. I've seen more than a
few movies that try to work in "Latino" themes, only to come
off as gimmicky. LA Mission is a movie with alma, real
soul. From the clothing and music to the lowriders and
pachuco swagger, La Mission gets it right. If you're a
car enthusiast, the ranflas in this movie are guaranteed to
put a smile on your face. I did think that the
references to running a lowrider on biodiesel were tacky and
out of place, but props to the film being shot on an
environmentally-friendly movie set (one of the only ones in
the Bay Area).
The verdict? Hit up
your local Redbox tonight and give this one a rent, or better
yet cop the DVD online. This is easily the best
performance of Bratt's career, in an emotional flick that
keeps it real with Latin audiences.