I always find it difficult to start writing about movies that really touched me. And Blood In Blood Out is definitely one of them. I feel like I owe it a good review because this is not just another movie about gangs. To be honest, it is a movie about gangs, life in the hood, and prison but it’s so much more than that. It’s a movie about how it feels to be a Chicano in the seventies and eighties, a term that has since evolved into Hispanic. You can check out the link above to find out why that happened but I think you already know. However, this story we’re about to witness here can be about any minority in any country in the world. It transcends language barriers with ease and is universal in nature.
You should also know that Blood In Blood Out or Bound by Honor as it was retitled is based on true events. Jimmy Santiago Baca wrote the script based on his experiences, both in prison and as a member of a gang. This adds another layer of authenticity to the story that already feels authentic as fuck. Now, there’s something you’re going to notice right away when you play this movie and that’s its running time. I know that three hours and ten minutes sounds like an eternity but trust me by the time you get to those last ten minutes you will want more. You will want to see the original fucking five hour cut detailing what happens with Montana’s daughter and how the story comes full circle. However, there’s some good news on that front: We’re finally getting the Blood In Blood Out five hour cut!
It is the year of our lord 1972 and 17-year-old Miklo Vekla just got to Los Angeles. After a fight with his racist white father, he decided to live with his Mexican mother in his old hood. There, he will be greeted by his childhood friends Paco and Cruz. And so, the adventure that is life begins…
And while the story is set in the seventies, the movie was shot in the nineties giving it a very distinctive look and feel. It covers the thirty-year period of increased gang violence combined with a huge spike in drug use. The change of title from Blood In Blood Out to Bound by Honor is a direct result of the LA Riots. Plus, you had the whole situation with another similar movie, American Me. But that’s a story for another time. Right now I’m trying to entice you to check out this masterpiece. A masterpiece that developed a cult following all over the world. It’s still popular in Germany, France, Sweden, and many other countries. This just proves what I was talking about earlier that this is a movie that knows no boundaries. If you want to connect with the community check out this Instagram account: ChasedByHounds.
Not only is this a hood movie and a gang movie but it’s also a fucking prison movie! A pretty hefty chunk of the story takes place in San Quentin prison where it was also shot. Actually, the Warden you see in the movie is the actual fucking Warden and not an actor! Blown away by the authenticity of the script, he rushed the permits and joined the production as an actor. Danny Trejo actually served some time there before starting his career as an actor. One inmate is worth $30.000 per year and the system benefits from them giving rise now to a whole industry of private prisons. All this is happening in the country with the largest inmate population in the world that’s mostly black and brown.
This is also a very artistic movie, beautifully shot and edited. We will have the opportunity to see awesome artwork by Adan Hernandez plus all the street art of that time. This brings us to the characters among which is a talented artist, Cruz, struggling to achieve his full potential like all of us. They are so diverse and believable that by the time the movie is over you will feel like you know them. The entire vibe around this movie is more down-to-earth and focused on telling the real story without much bravado. Unlike some similar crime epics like Scarface or Carlito’s Way that also came out in 1993.
Right from the opening scene, Blood In Blood Out sets the stage for this story of epic proportions. It captures the spirit of the place and places us in this different time. You can fully immerse yourself into this story and forget about everything else. There’s such honesty in the script I’m sure you’ll recognize some vibes from your own youth. And the slang is so juicy that you’ll soon be calling everyone carnal or ese. Not to mention all the hot mamacitas. Orale! Essentially a story of not just an outcast but an outcast who’s looked down upon and forced to feel like he doesn’t belong anywhere. I know it’s not the same but it’s like if you moved from a smaller to bigger city and now you’re not the “true” resident of either.
However, if I had to choose one narrative as the primary, it would be the coming of age story following three young guys. Born into this world, as Cruzito would say chased by hounds, we want to survive and thrive as we search for the meaning of it all. Something to define us as individuals, individuals who are worth something and are contributing to the community. Fucking La Raza. It all revolves around the family and love that you have for your brothers and sisters. On the other hand, if you follow such a set of values, certain groups and individuals can hijack them and transplant them onto their, crooked values. In exchange, they offer to verify your masculinity along with respect, meaning, and, of course, loads of money and power.
It also touches on racism and the disadvantaged position of people of color in the USA. We will come to know La Onda and efforts of its leader Montana to try and help the Latino community. All the gangs in this movie are based on real gangs, Mexican Mafia, Black Guerrilla Family and the Aryan Brotherhood. And by the way, the title refers to the initiation ritual where you have to kill someone to get in the gang and the only way you’re leaving it is by dying. If you’re looking for something similar, I recommend you check out another story of epic proportions in El Infierno. With the story taking place in Mexico, it details how crime gets intertwined with regular life.
Finally, we need to talk about the cast of Blood In Blood Out. Led by the charismatic Damian Chapa, it also felt this burden of a larger-than-life story and gave us something to remember it by. I could go and talk about every single actor in this movie but it would be just too much. The only thing that you could say is a bit problematic is the occasional overacting. It quickly turns a raw and visceral crime movie into an almost ridiculous melodrama. However, in all subsequent viewings, you will find this to just be a passionate and inspired outpouring of emotions. It will become endearing and part of the whole story about this movie. And trust me, you will see this movie more than once. I know I sure did. Vatos Locos forever!
Director: Taylor Hackford
Writers: Ross Thomas, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Jeremy Iacone
Cast: Damian Chapa, Jesse Borrego, Benjamin Bratt, Enrique Castillo, Victor Rivers, Delroy Lindo, Carlos Carrasco
Fun Facts: Damian Chapa, Benjamin Bratt, and Jesse Borrego lived with real gang members in East Los Angeles for 3 months.