Right from the opening scene featuring police pulling out a frozen body from a lake, you can see Hot Tamale is going to be a great movie. I mean, the frozen dead guy is still holding his beer with a stiff smile on his face. And one of the police officers is Harland Williams, who played the same role in Dumb and Dumber. Hell, I still remember the face he made when he took a sip of that beer. This is not a coincidence as the whole movie has that uplifting and adventurous atmosphere. However, it is much raunchier. And how could it not be with captivating Diora Baird? She is definitely one hot tamale who plays her role pitch-perfect using facial expressions masterfully. To even things out we also have Matt Cedeño, a passionate, handsome and tall Cuban-American. Both of them are former models.
With a budget of just $500,000, Hot Tamale looks and feels great. What it lacks in lavish setups, it makes up well-written dialogue and atmosphere. I especially liked the two hitmen played by Mike Starr and Sean Blakemore. Their constant bickering was really funny and entertaining. The same goes for the rest of the characters. The main story is a familiar one. A young and naive guy from a small town goes to Los Angeles in pursuit of his dreams. And while the theme of salsa music is a large part of the movie, this primarily a crime comedy. I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot as it’s one of the selling points of this highly underrated movie. It reminds me of a similarly-themed The Mexican starring Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. And if you want to go even further back, there’s Into the Night from 1985.
Meet Harlan Woodruff, a simple guy living a simple existence in the state of Wyoming. He used to be really depressed until he discovered the magic of salsa music. Determined to become a musician he decides to join his friend Ceasar who just moved to Los Angeles. However, along his 16-hour drive there, something will happen. Something that will put a target on his back. Not to mention two ruthless hitmen.
You can clearly feel that a lot of effort went into making this movie. And if you really pay attention to things going on you can notice all the ways they were able to save money. Although the main story is familiar, you can’t guess where it’s going and there are a couple of brave choices. The atmosphere is exciting, stemming from the onscreen presence of Diora, drugs, and crime. And yes, I’m still mouthing bastards every time someone smokes a joint. Straight life is a fucking bitch, I’ll tell you that my friends. However, that didn’t prevent me from enjoying this little flick. And I suggest you do the same. At least for ninety minutes, you’ll be able to dream about how would it be to share a flat with a dream girl and copious amounts of weed. Plus you’ll know what to say to someone who’s from Wyoming.
Director: Michael Damian
Writer: Janeen Damian, Michael Damian
Cast: Randy Spelling, Matt Cedeño, Diora Baird, Mike Starr, Sean Blakemore, Jason Priestley, Cesar Garcia, Richard Riehle
Fun Facts: The film won the Boston International Film Festival Best Narrative feature Award