LOWRIDERS review

Wait, wait. Let me just take a wild guess as to what this movie is: a pretentious “artist from the hood.” By God does this movie not look the least bit interesting. In fact, if looks downright unlikable. The trailer opens on a narration about a normal kid trying to convince you that he’s a normal kid that does normal kid things. Okay… good for you? And then he reveals that he’s a graffiti artist who gets caught by the police, potentially screwing over his friend’s future in a good school all so he can prove he’s a great artist. Broken out by his dad, whom is an honest and hard-working gentleman, who has one son who is a criminal and the other teetering on being an artist or a criminal. Why do I get the feeling that the dad is going to be portrayed as a bad guy, even though his actions are totally justified. He just wants his son to do something productive instead of something that will get him into trouble. You know what, I’ll reserve judgment. I’m hoping I’m wrong about this.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Gabriel Chavarria (FREEDOM WRITERS [2007] and the upcoming WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES [2017]) and Demián Bichir (THE HATEFUL EIGHT [2015], MACHETE KILLS [2013], THE HEAT [2013], and upcoming films ALIEN: COVENANT [2017] and THE NUN [2018]). In support, we have Theo Rossi (WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS [2016], CLOVERFIELD [2008], and Netflix’s TV show LUKE CAGE), Eva Longoria (ARTHUR CHRISTMAS [2011], OVER HER DEAD BODY [2008], and TV show DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES), Tony Revolori (TABLE 19 [2017], THE 5TH WAVE [2016], THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL [2014], and the upcoming SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING [2017]), and Melissa Benoist (PATRIOTS DAY [2016], THE LONGEST RIDE [2015], and TV show SUPERGIRL).

Now for the crew. Directing is Ricardo de Montreuil, known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Co-writing the screenplay are Cheo Hodari Coker (NOTORIOUS [2009], 3 episodes of LUKE CAGE and 5 episodes of SOUTHLAND) and Elgin James (projects I’ve never heard of). Composing the score is Bryan Senti, known mostly for documentaries. Finally, the cinematographer is Andrés Sánchez, known for stuff I’ve never heard of, but has worked on Montreuil’s films before.

Overall, I can’t say I’m looking forward to this. It looks closer to something like a young-adult story. But here’s to hoping that it’s better than it’s letting on.

This is my honest opinion of: LOWRIDERS

(SUMMARY)

Danny (Gabriel Chavarria) is your typical teen from Los Angeles. He loves graffiti art and is very talented, but his antics eventually get him caught by the police and his father, Miguel (Demián Bichir) has to bail him out. Miguel is a car mechanic and has dreams of making the perfect custom car to enter in an annual lowrider event to get recognized and bring serious business to his garage. However, Miguel and Danny do not see eye to eye, and matters are only made more complicated when Danny’s older criminal brother Francisco, or “Ghost” (Theo Rossi) is released from an eight-year stint in prison and starts corrupting Danny into helping him win the lowrider event and see his free-spirited way of living as opposed to his well-meaning, but overbearing father with a troubled past.

(REVIEW)

Nope, not very good. Not all bad, but ultimately… nah.

Alright, so what are my problems with this movie? Well, the story as I mentioned follows Danny. Danny is akin to, and I’m going to say this with a straight face as I say it, a Disney princess. Yes, I really just said that. Seriously, what does Danny have in common with these princesses: Ariel, Jasmine, Belle, and Rapunzel? They’re the dreamers that want more than what they currently have for no other reason than because they have a different idea about what life should be about. At least, that the easiest joke that you can make. Give these princesses some credit though, they’re likable and stand for something. When they make mistakes, they try to fix it and know better than to escalate a bad situation for bad reasons. That’s not who Danny is. Already, he’s committing illegal acts by spray-painting buildings for no other reason than to prove he’s a good artist. But in the end, you can try and tell me that you can paint the most beautiful pictures with the blood of children. I don’t care how pretty your painting is, you’re using children as your means of creating art, you sick bastard. Okay, I admit, that’s a tremendous extreme by comparison to Danny, but you get the idea: illegal acts to prove a point.

Okay, so I’ve already established that he’s a Disney princess without the good writing. To boot, he’s also a shitty friend. There’s this scene where he’s riding along with his friends on the road and he has his friend pull over so he can doodle. But she’s all like, “Danny, I’m not losing my scholarship over this!” Then the cops blare their sirens and the girl bolts. For one thing, you go girl. Don’t let your stupid-ass inconsiderate friends ruin your life. You’ve got my undying respect right there. But secondly, Danny is an asshole for putting her in that situation at all. It’d be one thing if he rode around on his skateboard all by his lonesome to do stupid shit. At least he’d be keeping it self-contained when he finally bites the dust. But no, he ropes his friends in it and has zero consideration for them. This scene results in him getting arrested, as well as his friend Chuy (Tony Rovolori), who was stupid enough to hang around Danny.

Danny’s an ungrateful little shit. Let me ask the majority of you, if you and your friend did something stupid enough that got you arrested, would your parents bail you out? Let me tell you, I’m a middle class Hispanic guy. I went to public school and all that. Two story suburban house in a quaint and quiet neighborhood. There are four HD TVs in my house, and an Xbox One and a PS2 sitting next to my personal HD TV. Three cars in our ownership; one for each member of my immediate family. I never drank ’till I was twenty-two, never smoked, or did drugs, none of that shit. In fact, I’m raised so white, you wouldn’t even guess from the sound of me that I was Hispanic in anyway because I don’t have that accent, nor do I understand a lick of Spanish, despite my mother being Mexican, who is also about as white as they come despite her ethnic origins, and me working in many restaurants where half the employees are true Hispanics that have accents that I can barely hear through. With this information about me in mind, do you honestly think that my white Italian tight-assed dad would ever bail my ass out of jail if my reasons weren’t short of, “A dude had a gun to my head”? You bet your sweet bippy he wouldn’t. My ass would be sitting in jail for a good long while until I learned my damn lesson. That’s obviously not the case in this movie. Without a single word exchanged prior to being bailed out, that’s exactly what his dad does: bail him out. And Danny is as ungrateful as they come. He broods in the passenger seat of the car as he goes home and doesn’t once thank his dad for springing him, even though he didn’t have to. Look, I won’t pretend to have ever been arrested, nor do I know anyone who has, but I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that the cost for bailing someone out of jail doesn’t cost the chump change sitting in your arm-rest. I think the father is owed a God damned thank you. And, the dad was gracious enough to break his friend out. My dad may bail me out if he was in an ungodly good mood, but no force on Earth, Heaven, or Hell could get him to bail out whatever friend I had with me. Miguel is by far the only likable character in this movie because of how cool he plays everything as well as the loyalty he shows to his family and friends.

Have you noticed yet that the only thing I’ve bitched about so far is one single solitary character? HA!!! And I’ve got many more to go through, so let’s keep going!

I can’t stand Lorelai (Melissa Benoist) either. I really like Benoist as an actress. I think she does great work as Supergirl and does the character justice, but she really picked a character here that does a 180 on what she’s known for. Now, I get that actors should play a variety of characters and shouldn’t be relegated to a single type. I’m sure as happy and proud as she is portraying a popular comic character, and in the process having a hand in revitalizing mainstream interest in the character, she doesn’t want to be associated with Supergirl forever and only get characters that portray her as a happy-go-lucky type. It’s no surprise that she’d pick roles like she did in PATRIOTS DAY or even this one. But by God, she’s gotta have some better offers than this. Lorelai is Danny’s romantic interest in the film. The problem is, and I hate to keep making comparisons to Disney films, their relationship is horribly contrived. In fact, any scene with Danny and Lorelai ranges from being at best, boring, to at worst, beyond obnoxious. Supposedly, she falls in love with him because of his artistry, as she herself is a photographer. But as much as this movie wants its audience to believe that this is a romance to rival that of CASABLANCA (1942), the cringeworthy dialog reminds us that it’s only on par with the Twilight films. “Maybe if you keep kissing me like that, I will.” Ugh! Seriously, I’d rather watch STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (2002). At least I get to see Jedi kicking ass and a lightsaber-wielding Yoda at some point. Here, I get a growing tumor. This relationship is bland and will definitely provoke a ton of groans

***SPOILERS***

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Ghost is just as bad of a cliché character as Danny. Don’t get me wrong, I think Rossi has the potential to be a good actor. He was perfectly serviceable in Netflix’s LUKE CAGE. But let’s face it, he was a bit player that only played to his type. He hasn’t been given a real script to showcase his talent yet. This movie didn’t do him any favors. Who is Ghost? He’s the black sheep son who spent many years in prison. He knows it’s been his dad’s lifelong dream to win the annual lowrider competition thing, so he sets out to win it to spite his dad. Even when his dad wins, he’s such a bitch of a loser that he sends goons to wreck the car that his dad spent years customizing. At what point was I ever supposed to care that daddy-dearest never came to visit him in prison? At what point before the climactic chase scene was I supposed to empathize with the two reconciling? In fact, why does that make sense? Miguel has been otherwise pretty cold toward Ghost when they share screen-time and Ghost is responsible for putting his own dad in the hospital by getting him shot. Arguably on accident, but I guarantee you that he didn’t feel too bad about his hand in it. And did I mention how he treats Danny in this movie? Not that I should care about Danny to begin with, but once Danny knows who did this to his father, he confronts Ghost who has nothing but mockery and contempt. Ghost spends his entire time turning Danny against his dad, even letting Danny stay with him after a big fight between Danny and Miguel breaks out, and later on, Ghost throws the “kindness” he’s shown him back in his face because Danny showed a little loyalty to his father. But of course, for no rhyme or reason, he wants Ghost to be there at the big expo. Ghost’s resolution with his dad and brother is never justified and certainly garners no sympathy from me.

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***END SPOILERS***

Okay okay, I’ve gone on and on about the characters. Is there anything that can elevate this movie in any way? Well… sure, a little bit. Eva Longoria is alright. I mean, she doesn’t steal a scene anyway, but for a woman who is still only associated with DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, a light-hearted comedy show, she plays her role pretty well for as limited as she is.

The real star of the movie, however, should have been Bichir. His performance feels the most authentic and realistic, for the most part. When he shows disappointment in Danny, you see that hurt in his eyes and feel his pain in his voice. I’m sure no car guy, I honestly don’t like cars, but when you see Miguel working on his cars, you see so much pride in him. The look of a man who feels accomplished after years, blood, sweat, and money being poured into this machine, it’s a truly fantastic performance. I maintain that the movie should have been about him and not Danny.

But really, there’s not much to this movie. It’s melodramatic, a jamboree of clichéd characters and story, it’s not the most pleasant movie to sit through. I understand that the film is trying to shed light on an underground culture in LA that probably deserves to be seen by the masses, but this wasn’t a good way to do it. All I saw was a bad wannabe Disney movie that fails to be anything special or unique. Unless you’ve got a serious hard-on for being from the rough neighborhoods in downtown Los Angeles, there’s nothing to get from this.

My honest rating for LOWRIDERS: 2/5

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