All films when you look at their core deal with the same themes such as revenge, pain, and love as do the stories. Stories of fathers and sons is nothing new but what substance you add to your version and how you tell it is what separates it from the rest. When you can give the film its own identity is when it is able to become something more, part of a culture. A sign of a good director is one that is able to thread these lines together seamlessly and provide the viewer an experience they haven’t seen before.
Ricardo de Montreuil’s film Lowriders incorporates the East L.A landscape of Boyle Heights, the lowrider car culture community as well as a tale of father and sons. The film centers on Danny, played by Gabriel Chavarria (East Los High), who also provides narration as a young street artist who is at ends with his father Miguel, played by Demian Bichir (The Hateful Eight, The Bridge). Miguel does not understand his son’s desire to “scribble” on people’s property where as Danny feels he is an artist and does not want to be like his father, an old timer wasting time on cars. Miguel’s one true joy is his garage and his classic lowrider with a custom design by his father on the hood. At first it may not mean much by the end of the film you will leave with a new perception of this car culture and its history.
If only to add fuel to the fire there is Ghost, played by Theo Rossi (Sons of Anarchy, Luke Cage), Danny’s brother and Miguel’s other son who has been in prison. For those who have watched Luke Cage have seen Rossi play a bad guy but what a difference there is in his performance. As Ghost he has a raging resentment towards his father and with that it adds an extra layer to Ghost’s character. It gives his actions motive which only make him feel like a bigger threat; at times it felt like Al Pacino’s character from The Devil’s Advocate slowly enticing people into his will.
Montreuil is able to tell all sides of these stories; as a viewer it’s always rewarding to see certain payoffs and endings. The real accomplishment is how Montreuil portrays these moments in such a realistic manner. We tend to forget people in the end are that, just people. We place labels, titles and put certain people on pedestals based on these pre-existing ideas. How we react and act towards someone isn’t as simple as one may think and in that Bichir’s, Rossi’s and Chavarria’s performances all take a large leap forward in this film.
The film is aided by a very strong supporting cast with Eva Longoria (Desperate Housewives) playing Miguel’s wife Gloria, Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Dope) as Danny’s best friend Chuy and Melissa Benoist (Supergirl) as Danny’s love interest Lorelai. With strong performances throughout, a solid cast and a colorful, distinctive backdrop Montreuil has crafted a film that can grab the attention of any viewer. The film tells a powerful story between a father and his sons and the road to redemption that many may never experience.
3.5 out of 5
Film opens to limited release Friday May 12th