Based on the true life experiences of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, the film focuses on step-brothers Paco and Cruz, and their bi-racial cousin Miklo. It opens in 1972, as the three are members of an East L.A. gang known as the "Vatos Locos", and the story focuses on how a violent crime and the influence of narcotics alter their lives. Miklo is incarcerated and sent to San Quentin, where he makes a "home" for himself. Cruz becomes an exceptional artist, but a heroin addiction overcomes him with tragic results. Paco becomes a cop and an enemy to his "carnal", Miklo.
Damian Chapa, Benjamin Bratt, and Jesse Borrego lived with real gang members in East Los Angeles for 3 months in order to help the actors develop the characters they were portraying and perfect their roles in the film. See more »
In the scene where the young boy is laying dead on the ground from a heroin overdose, the young actor can be seen to blink his eyes. See more »
During the end credits we see helicopter shots of Los Angeles. The movie ends with shots of the big tree (pina). See more »
The American Directors Cut DVD contains the following scenes:
There is an added scene between the one where Paco argues with his stepfather and the one where they get hassled by the cop. In it we see the guys driving and recalling moments in their childhood, smoking what seems to be joint and they get Miklo to do a " baby on acid face"
The scene where Cruz receives his scholarship is extended: He gives a speech and talks about his real mom who couldn't be there to see him receive his prize.
The scene where Popeye shows Miklo around is longer and contains more dialogue, including a death row inmate being escorted.
The art show scene is extended, Cruz and his buddies return high on drugs and his manager plays it off as part of the show.
There is an added scene before the one where Popeye takes his parole picture. In it Miklo and Popeye strike a deal: Miklo will erase Popeye's debt to La Onda in return Popeye will cast a vote for him in the council.
There is an added scene where Popeye stabs Smokey during a phony deal. It explains why Smokey is bleeding when he calls Paco and the blood on his shirt in the church.
After Montana is stabbed by Wallace, the prison riot sequence is longer with a cut scene containing more dialogue with the Onda council.
The final prison riot scene where Bonafide (the Black Guerilla Family leader) is murdered is more graphic where he is impaled.
I first saw this film a few years ago when my brother stumbled across it in a bargain basement basket bin! What a travesty for a start that it had not made a bigger mark at the box office and had been consigned to a cheap basket! I'm sure if released with more fanfare this time it would reach the audience it deserves! It is a story of rival gangs, family, love, betrayal, loyalty, acceptance - every film cliché you could think of.
It thoroughly explores the destiny of its 3 young stars as they struggle to make their way with the life path they have taken. I won't give away the plot as I believe anyway who truly loves films should see this film in its full glory with no knowledge of the plot or how the film eventually plays out.
I have been reading the postings, and many negative comments have been made about this film, but I believe this film stands up to much of its unfair criticism.
I will admit though, that I did squirm at some of Miklo's earlier expressions in the film, but a 3/4 of the way through he really picks up the baton and completely takes over. In fact, he is a revelation.
There are some cheesy bits of dialogue, but I don't think this takes away from the piece in any way.
It is a long film, but it needed to be. I don't think there are ANY scenes they could have done without - it is very effective, just the way it is.
Anybody who has seen it and didn't like it first time round, I employ you to rent it/buy it again and give it another try.
I purchased another copy of it again just a few days ago. I watched it yesterday and was still moved - as if it was the first time I saw it.
Its definitely TOP TEN best film material! MUST SEE!
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