GREAT FILMS GUYS MAY NOT OTHERWISE SEE -- Blood In Blood Out
East L.A. is what happens when you take Mexico and infect it with the desire to eliminate it. That's East L.A., and the characters of this great, great, great film, personified.
East L.A. is a part of California that there was never any gold rush to. No oceans with paradise-side hotels. Nothing was ever particularly wrong with East L.A. -- it was just the tourist logic -- you go to California for the oceanside stuff. If you wanted to be somewhere with no oceanside stuff, you would stay in Michigan or Iowa or wherever you live and work.
As a result, like anywhere else in the American Southwest that wasn't by an ocean, it is Mexico. Because it was always Mexico. Unchanged, unbothered Mexico in the United States where families can trace back ancestry as far as back as anyone in actual Mexico.
Blood in Blood Out endures because everything that happens is something any guy can relate to. Lots of us white boys have wished at some point that we could be another color so there would be less shit given to us as we pursue something cool. Lots of non-whites who grow up in hellholes would be more then willing to be part of the white world if it meant getting the fuck out of this environment. And any of us who have ever gone without a limb or suffered any kind of severe injury...know what it's like to fall in love with art...and drugs.
The startling thing about this film, one which provides yet another layer of greatness frosting on the cake, is the fact that each of the characters could have the tangible things that would theoretically make them happy, essentially ditching a good life for a "great" life the best they can -- Miklo, the white boy, could have freedom and a life of relative ease in Vegas and never have to look for a job since he has a dad who's like a foreman of some kind of construction company and willing to make him a high-level supervisor right off the bat and he's only 18. Cruz, the artist, is good enough to have a whole gallery show in Napa Valley and sell everything out...but the life he's documenting led to something he feels very guilty of. So he'll piss on that kind of show and like it. And then there's Paco who handles gangster hits like it's video chess, and knows the shittiest areas of East L.A. so well that he can avert a whole squadron of cops in a high speed chase and guarantee it in advance...he had the opportunity to be the king of the barrio. The face of antiestablishment. What does he do? Becomes a cop to preserve families against people like that.
Twenty years have passed and I have never seen Blood In Blood Out on cable. Not on Starz, not TNT, you can barely find it on Netfix. Perhaps the fear is that it's reverse racist in the extreme, but it's one of the most anti-violent gangster movies you'll ever see. I see Jimmy Santiago Baca talking to Paco at about the 10 minute mark -- after their confrontation with the police and saying Dude...calm down. Calm the f-ck down. If you don't...you got a few hours? Alright, because this is what will happen, let me show you what will happen if you don't calm down...follow me...
Blood In Blood Out is set from 1972-1984, a significant period in the history of Mexican street gangs because it was during this twelve year period when Latin America would see a series of violent rebellions that led to mass immigration to Los Angeles and San Diego. Thus eventually giving rise to the nastiest bunch of fucks this side of planet Earth -- the MS-13. Unlike most gangs who end up killing innocent people because of all the bystanders who get caught in the way of their back-and-forth gunfire, the MS-13 doesn't differentiate. They rape, they blow up buses, they cut off limbs, they DO NOT GIVE A F*CK. Unlike these street gangs we see in the early 70s in Blood In Blood Out and especially like others we see today, the immigrants who came from El Salvador and joined Mara Salvatrucha were actually STEEPED IN MILITARY TRAINING. They had connections to all the top grade military stuff and knew how to use it. Due to this, the gang scene would go from switchblades and weed to machine guns and harder drugs. It would get so out of control wherever the MS-13 went, particularly when it came to their beefs with gangs like 18th Street...that the Mexican Mafia would actually have to act as a PEACEKEEPER between them because it was killing their business to have dealers and their clients afraid to be outside at night. To pay respects to the Mexican Mafia for effectively raising the quality of life and industry for these relative newcomers to the underworld, they would incorporate the number "13" in honor of the letter "M" for Mexico.
The story begins in 1972. Miklo has a white father and a Hispanic mother. They're divorced, he hates his dad, and so went to East L.A. where his mother and aunt live. It is there that he reunites with Paco and Cruz, brothers due to parents remarrying. Paco and Cruz are in the Vatos Locos, and Miklo takes the form of Ray Liotta when it comes to his association. They like him and he likes them, but he's not full-blooded Latino nor does he even partially look it. Blood in Blood Out is about what happens when Paco...dares Miklo to prove he belongs.
Paco in so many words asks Miklo, sure, you hate your white boy daddy, but still...of all the places you could run off to, you come here? Miklo never answers the question outright, but this in fact is Miklo's version of going to Hollywood to become a movie star. Miklo Velka came to East Los Angeles...to become a prominent Mexican gang lord.
Miklo is six days from turning eighteen years old and getting off probation when he first returns to the barrio, which means the shit he's about to get into en route to proving his worth isn't his first offense. And it unfortunately will occur before -- not after -- the six days are up.
As a bunch of taggers from a rival gang, the Tres Puntos (Spider, Demon and Joker) are tagging the alley, Miklo goes and breaks their rear windshield. A standoff ensues that turns into pretty much nothing. But they get revenge when they apprehend Cruz while he's on a date, and leave him permanent injuries. Not necessarily paralyzation, but he's lucky.
And so Paco and Miklo get revenge. They go up to their hill and fucking shoot the leader, Spider, after initially trying to just let him go with cracked ribs, a permanent VL scar on his chest, and no more standing in East L.A. Spider's stubborn and tries to shoot them.
Miklo's hit...but shoots back.
Ever see the movie cover on the DVD? Where Paco is holding Miklo from behind while Miklo seems to be flipping out over something? From right here.
They flee from the cops, but are caught.
Paco goes to the Marines, and Miklo goes to San Quentin for a 15 year sentence.
One of the great things about the film is that the prison scenes...are actually comfortable to watch. They're even funny. Nothing like "An Innocent Man" which was fucking scary. But what Blood in Blood out captures brilliantly is the element of grave DISCOMFORT that a situation like this would bring. Discomfort has become so high now in San Quentin that business takes precedence over sexual appetite.
There are officially more people in prison with them to barter with for sexual favors politely then there is available space to carry out said sexual favors.
La Onda by the way (according to wikipedia) means "counterculture", referring to "Mexican Counterculture in the 60s".
America is unique in the sense that we are a land where anyone in the world can make MONEY. There's money everywhere, but only here can ANYONE be rich. We're so proud of this we salute stupidity, to show how the most obviously dumb people can make it. That's why it happens. It's a PR stunt. It's like flexing our muscles. Can just any dumb ass in YOUR village get rich? Huh? You see...and it seems to be the reason the rest of the world hates the United States -- it poisons families. Your kids are going to be Americans, which would be fine, except that our ideologies had always traditionally thrived by making education obselete -- and education is something the rest of the world relishes. As the hippies did. But what La Onda is in this movie is the personification of what threatened the best of Mexico's youth since then. The best of our youth...sent to fight, be soldiers in the marines, turned into vengeful police officers, being addicted to coke, selling coke, and being locked up in San Quentin to plot each other's extinction. For one thing that happens later on is that the Aryans will take Miklo, in the midst of getting one of their members to buy drugs from them, says "Look around you Half-Breed, Onda's finished. Carlos works for us now, and every day he brings more Onda soldiers with him." This is what has happened to the real life La Onda...by the 1980s...
Upon entering prison, Miklo has sights on joining a gang, but not the whites.
Among the whites is Billy Bob Thornton who is almost comedic as a loyal puppet. He threatens people harder then his boss, like one of those assistant managers at...oh...every f-cking job any of us have ever had.
And now onto Al.
Al heads the kitchen. You get the hint that Al, seemingly pushing fifty years old, first came to San Quentin when he was a teenager and probably had to be toughed up. He's what's referred to as a "hopeless romantic", an eccentric kid who probably thought about ending his own life the moment the jury long ago said fuck you at his trial and has since learned that playing mind tricks with himself can lead to adaptation. This is no career criminal -- he's mean for self-defense purposes and you can tell because it's all very dangerous and poorly planned. The consequences of his verbal baiting to the other inmates seems in Al's head to not exist. Possibly because unlike Popeye who is also protected by Ryder and the Aryans, Al owns a warden's assistant who got into Al's trade without understanding the dramatic shift in power this would give an inmate over a guard who's not an inmate yet and doesn't want to be.
Al employs his brand of race politics while working the line in the cafeteria. He sells almost everything they have because Mariott and all those places basically use the cheapest form of processed prison food they can acquire. On pork chop day, Al keeps the good pork chops from the blacks and Hispanics, and try to have sex with Miklo. As the blacks protest, he calls them the n-word and makes fun of the way Muslims pray. As the Hispanics protest, he makes fun of their accents and tells them sorry no toh-teeeeyas for lunch today, holmes.
This all comes up after the first attempt on Miklo to rape him. One character who will take center stage soon is Popeye Cervada...the character who will soon shift the entire philosophy of the film, a character who...without him...would leave each of the numerous separate stories throughout the film unconnected.
This film, remember, is actually supposed to be called...like Miklo, Paco, Cruz, Montana, Magic, Geronimo, Cheevo, Manu, Delores..."Bound By Honor".
The bad guys are not.
Popeye Cervada and Carlos are Bound By Pleasure
The loan shark, Al, a crappy boss Miklo has at the retread shop when on parole named Gill, and last but not least Spider -- the Tres Puntos who attacked Cruz and who Miklo is now locked up for killing -- are Bound by Reputation.
All the white characters, let's go through them --
1) Gill, who robs Miklo to cover his gambling debts 2) The prison photographer, impatient 3) Lois and Jerry, a pair of art fans who actually tell Cruz that he's achingly talented based on his ability to make a bunch of barrio residents look like they have something resembling human traits...4) Ryder, played very appropriately by the cat from Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer who tries to rape his sister (making Henry kill him), 5) Lightning, played by Billy Bob Thornton, Ryder's assistant, .6) The lawyer in the prison library who causes this whole drug mess by smuggling it in trying to take it over 7) Paco's partner who doesn't know and doesn't care about Hispanics and talks in a way he thinks Paco would be down with...something that will go from being something Paco doesn't notice to somewhat noticing to really noticing to EVERYTHING'S A FUCKING JOKE TO YOU MAN, WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?!!!! 8) Janice, Cruz's agent who reminds me of my first agent so much I wanted to go FAAAAAAHCK YOU 9) Janice's assistant, this guy Daniel who's story is never told but dislikes Cruz, which basically is a direct indication that Daniel is a striving artist who thought sucking up to an art agent would get him a show....and instead....it goes to Cruz.
So back to Popeye.
Popeye recognizes Miklo's gang tattoo as they're in the cafeteria.
Miklo recognizes the guy Popeye claims to be his little brother. It was Chuey...from the back seat of the car during the getaway with Franky and Paco and Miklo.
As one of the Latinos who does business pretty much with everybody freely, Popeye Cervada shows Miklo around and hooks him with various luxuries...and then throws him in a cell and tries to rape him. But La Onda, the big Latino gang, halts it. Take your bitches off this level, they say.
Miklo is persistent as hell in becoming a member of La Onda, led by Montana, the official Don of the film.
Earlier on, when we first meet Cruz, he is doing a painting on somebody's car for money, and the painting is that of Quetzlchotrl, the ruler of Aztlan (Aztec kingdom). Cruz promises his younger step-brother who's helping him out -- "Pay attention, I'm gonna tell you all about him, because this vato's coming back some day to reclaim the Razas kingdom."
Why do I bring this up? Because that person he speaks of...is Montana Segura.
He will save Miklo, build Miklo, and gradually add a poetic/literate side to his own warrior side as his early attempts for appeals and retrials falls on deaf ears. Later on in the film, Miklo will make the mistake of bitching to Montana that the parole board didn't prove to be a bunch of cool, down homies while Montana's been trying to become a good person so bad and has a daughter growing up without him.
Montana's assistant is Jimmy Santiago Baca himself, who did six-and-a-half years of real time in San Quentin, where he learned to read and write, and where he began an illustrious writing career by selling poems for cigarettes...to death row inmates. For poor Jimmy, over a narcotics charge at nineteen, would end up doing most of this time in the same area of San Quentin where people with a license to kill woke up every day knowing it could take twenty years to finally be strapped in that chair. Jimmy Santiago Baca will...later on...be the man who kills the BGA vice-president by spilling water on the floor around his feet...and then dropping a live weld. He's the one who grants Miklo entry into Montana's cell to speak to him. He's alive at the end, in the circle of other La Onda members during their last meeting with Miklo. He is at the meeting on the playground with Carlos. And...he at the table with Montana when we first meet all the inmates.
Montana's lieutenant goes by the name Magic. Magic is a former Tres Puntos, the rival gang of the Vatos Locos. That's right -- he knows and is pissed off about Spider. Gang affiliations on the street however don't matter in prison apparently because they don't have the time. Not with the cold war going on between the Hispanics, blacks, and whites. If you're strong enough to join, that's the only criteria.
To make Miklo go away, Magic and this other guy Carlos take Miklo and hold him over the banister upside down. Miklo's not afraid, and thus Montana, the leader, grants him a five minute conversation. Miklo explains to him that on the outside, he's a Vato Loco, and he's in jail for killing someone who tried to attack them. Montana says sorry -- you're white. White's the enemy. White's the system. And Chicanos killing Chicanos, such as blacks killing Chicanos and other blacks, is how the system wins. Miklo says great -- have me do some sneak-up, sniper work for you. I can get into places you can't because I'm white on the outside.
And so Miklo pretends to volunteer his sexual services for Al, Al...is actually kind of charming. He never ever ever attempts to rape Miklo. He allows him to take some time before they do anything. But he stands next to him in the line and everybody, including the Aryans, make fun of him as they head past.
Finally Miklo gets Al alone and stabs him with a shank that La Onda hid in a crock-pot in the back of the kitchen. The guy who plays Machete in Grindhouse, Danny Trejo, is the big lookout man, directing him when it's his time to move, and saluting him when he succeeds and Ving Rhames and the wardens try to put everybody on lockdown when Al's body is found.
Miklo will keep the guards at bay by holding onto evidence that they were involved in Al's trade.
So Miklo's in!
Meanwhile back home, Cruz is establishing himself in the art world, slowly but surely. Outside of local praise and a couple neighborhood kids who like his painting, his art shows are grand and glorious and everything he paints he sells. Rich white Californians marvel over Tuscan wine at how "noble" Cruz paints East L.A. thugs. But Cruz is also deep into heroin and morphine by now (getting addicted from when he was given morphine legally in the hospital) and it doesn't matter that everything has sold out, because the checks all still have to be processed and thus he has to wait to receive money. Cruz and two friends who we haven't seen since they ditched the getaway car after Miklo killed the guy -- Chuey and Franky -- will make asses of themselves at the art show after Cruz manages to get a loan from his agent to buy more smack. Cruz however...is so freaking talented...that Janice overlooks this incident and eventually Cruz gets money.
But Cruz has to paint mainstream stuff, and it makes him sick. Cruz can see that those rich enough to buy from Janice are not seeking out the great Cruz Candelaria and his signature touch to paint their houses as much as seeking out a Mexican competent enough to do the kind of stuff they've seen in travel agent brochures for Spanish countries. It only makes him plunge deeper into smack.
One afternoon his little half-brother, Paco's little brother, comes over uninvited. When Cruz is asleep, he swipes his hypodermic needle and tries it on himself. The kid gets an overdose and dies.
The only member of Cruz's family that talks to him for the next decade...is Paco. To say fuck you.
And don't use my dead brother in your painting.
Things only escalate between the two as Paco is now a narcotics detective for the LAPD following the Marine Corps. Paco...busts people like Cruz. And shoots them everyday.
Meanwhile Miklo gets out on parole and ends up living with the joker Popeye who tried initially to rape him. They're pretty much friends now. It's almost awkward to watch at first, as they're now living together.
But the seeds have been planted for something bad to happen...
Since getting out of prison, the first thing Popeye and the others do is loan money from a loan shark in order to buy a PCP lab. 100,000 dollars.
The lab is seized by Paco and the police.
So now they have to find another way to get the money.
Popeye uses this as an excuse to cut a third out of the other convicts' checks when they get out on parole...never paying the loan shark a cent.
Sure enough the loan shark comes with his gunman named Real-thing who looks like Eddie Vedder and say "where the fuck is my money?"
To quell this issue, Miklo goes and does what by now feels like the easy solution...robbing some people. Miklo comes to this conclusion almost instantly because the cumulative effect of Popeye's dickery.
Chapter 3 -- Popeye's Dickery
1) Trying to rape Miklo during his first day in San Quentin
2) Telling Miklo he'll have a furnished apartment all ready for him, which was PROMISED in exchange for ignoring Popeye's whooping gambling debt....and when it came time for Miklo to get his apartment, he would in fact get a cot in a corner of Popeye's studio...
3) One that has no bedroom doors, unlike Popeye...who apparently gets a whole bedroom to bang chicks in...which in fact he does.
4) Popeye uses the studio in fact to throw parties EVERY SINGLE GOD DAMN NIGHT while Miklo tries to sleep.
5) Parties are about the worst thing that can happen for Miklo, not because of all the thugs and party favors and noise, but because maybe 3 of these 400 people know Miklo. 397 people thus...don't know that this is Milkweed but some imperialist gringo puss who needs an attitude adjustment because who the f-ck is he to tell them to get the fuck of his way.
6) Stealing from his convict pals under the guise of representing La Onda
7) As which applies to the next paragraphs -- Popeye, Apache and Smokey have, since getting out of San Quentin, been dealing with a loan shark who is dumber then a son of a bitch. The lone shark -- Clabo I think his name is -- seems to have the right idea...he wants to rob banks and armored trucks and all that stuff, so he entraps violent ex-cons with piddly debts he doesn't really care about because he figures it's a hell of a way to recruit an army to rob these places. Sure enough he follows up his amazing theory by bringing ONE SINGLE LONE SOLITARY gunman along to go see a bunch of ARMED EX-CONS WHO THINK THAT A LOAN SHARK IS TRYING TO KILL THEM.
Clabo, sure enough, is stupid enough to actually witness confirmation to a story about Miklo shanking someone....and still assume Miklo's passive.
Popeye's friend, everybody. He's a beaut, it's he?
That's why we love you Popeye.
Popeye, almost completely losing respect among the clique he once co-led, is suddenly cut out of this new heist...pissing him off and leading to him calling the cops to let them know a "buy" is about to take place. Is it a buy? Fuck no. It's a robbery. But Popeye doesn't want a situation where they have to be caught shooting anybody before they can be nabbed.
Paco goes down there, as well as his partner Biff Tannen from Back to the Future in the only other thing I've seen him in outside of Freaks and Geeks. And it's as if they came back through time when they get to Zody's, because they're out of the car and chasing these guys BEFORE the bullets start raining on the armored van operators.
Paco blasts off Miklo's leg.
But Miklo, going back to prison, at least has the respect of the hardest La Ondas. He goes back to his cell and one of the guys who originally held him over the banister is like "hey my man, what's up? welcome back, holmes."
Paco is a representation -- at least I think -- of the Baby Boomers. You might have heard that term and are familiar with it, but perhaps you're not aware of how derogatory a term it can be. Baby Boomers were people born after World War II ended. Tons of servicemen came home and had lots and lots of sex with their wives and girlfriends, so much in fact that the amount of kids born in the late 40s and early 50s is essentially the world record. A baby boom. These kids grew up in an America with expressways, allowance, television, a new market called the "teenager", and because they grew up right after World War II, they also had the privilege of having what is called "positive spin" there for them to learn...
World War II was the most propaganda-heavy war of all time. Germans and Americans fought each other using art and media every bit as much as they fought with physical violence. It was the first war ever fought when children's cartoons were being broadcasted. Some of the most offensive Japanese caricatures you've ever seen would take on Popeye the sailor. Everyone who helps out Superman and Batman in the DC Comics Justice League -- with the lone exception being the Flash -- came directly out of stories in which one single strong American beat the hell out of a million Nazis. As we needed money to fight a two-ocean war, it became essential to sell this war to Americans even after we had sold it, because the government really needed us to contribute. War bonds, sugar rations, meat rations, everyone's favorite baseball players going overseas, all that stuff required putting "positive spin" on an increasingly inconvenient situation on the home front. World War II demonstrated new opportunities for "positive spin" to be utilized to achieve objectives. And thus the Baby Boomers would become the best ever at making themselves seem righteous and hip, proven in situations such as the Vietnam War where they didn't want to fight and made it seem cool not to. This is why the show "Madmen" gets so much praise and so many awards -- the culture of advertising, positive spin in action, in the late 50s and early 60s. This was the soup that all the Baby Boomers' rotten meat would thrive in, illustrated and personified in the form of Don Draper. He is a product of this advertising culture just as much as a catalyst. That's why he chain smokes while working for the industry that's in the business of making smoking seem harmless and fashionable. With every minute of elapsed time in a Madmen episode, the world at large gets crappier and crappier in a way they never imagined. We knew how to counter the Nazi war machine. It was big and obvious, reminiscent of the old myth of the devil as a big scary red creature with a pitchfork and messed up face. But just like the doctors of old didn't realize that washing their hands could prevent untold illnesses amongst their patients, we didn't see the un-obvious element of positive spin and advertising, and the prospect of countering a devil who was sexy and enticing. Since one would be hard pressed to find an American who regards Vietnamese occupation to be positive in any way, it makes it seem like the Baby Boomers who burned their draft cards and protested during this time were simply way ahead of their time. But also in this mix were a lot of lazy, good-for-nothing addicts and it's these particular people who Paco represents in Blood in Blood Out. After Vietnam, the great amount of these protestors, hardly the enlightened leaders or the psychotic underbelly, panicked. They had thrown away their best shot at security in a world where having a college degree and a decent job is -- as they discovered -- NOT a given. And so when it came time to support themselves and raise families, they turned to the establishment and became their arms. That would in itself be understandable, maybe, but these outsiders who were suddenly given the keys...they were a lot like Kobe Bryant during that one year when he thought he was going to jail. Every night he's shooting 70 times and trying to outdo everybody. The white-collar version of this not only perpetuate the worst of the establishment but do it loudly, proudly, and while knowing most of the rebel's tricks. Industrialization has gone on for a hundred years. There has been a stock market. There have been corporations. Only since the Baby Boomers entered working age has 1) cities gone bankrupt 2) the air and ocean became compacted with poisonous wastes 3) inequality between rich and poor getting worse despite more opportunities and more money to go around 4) positive spin making all this possible. No Child Left Behind. The Patriot Act. Family First. Poor People Did It To Themselves. Block Job Creation AND Welfare 5) F*ck artistic integrity. Let's start MTV and make Steven Spielberg think he's John Ford. 6) Oprah and Ellen. Let's take ignorance and make it seem righteous, the way we made the opposite seem righteous twenty years ago. I could start a whole other hub on Oprah. The woman's a genius. She's a Houdini at making erections disappear but every woman in America is convinced she's an expert on men, she has no children but they think she's an expert on being a mother, she has not a centigram of taste and yet people buy books she recommends, the woman is a slice of fact that would never get published as fiction. Damn good actress though, she was the best thing in Lee Daniels' Butler. And Ellen...alright look...ladies, there is this show out called "Orange Is the New Black", another foray into prison, you need to get netflix to see it. All Ellen sees with this program is a show that has women and LGBT people portrayed properly...not a show that has women and LGBT people portrayed properly...on a show that freaking rules. See the difference? It took something so easily and personally identifiable and relatable for these mindless clowns to discover such an absolute gem...I mean if Orange Is the New Black and Wentworth (which also kicks ass) featured sweaty hairy guys the way it does girls, you think Ellen and Good Morning America and Entertainment Tonight would notice it? And 7) Let's make everything 100 times LESS durable so people buy traditionally long-lasting items more and more often. With the Baby Boomers came a group of goofballs who are systematically responsible for providing know-nothings with a know...a playbook against justice and democracy based on knowing how regular people think, react, their worst fears, the perceptions they think others have of them, (aka hippy guys are pussies), and worked against them. Fueled by a bitter, angry resentment towards a belief system they used to have that made them broke. John Lennon was killed because his fat demented assassin Mark David Chapman had read in a magazine that Lennon called the peace movement -- a John Lennon and Paul McCartney innovation -- a great big con. Chapman killed Lennon for sounding the exact same way as your standard modern day Baby Boomer. Those who say, for instance, integration was a lie are usually among those who first advocated it enough to get Nixon to stick the dogs on their colleges. You can hear the mix of brazen disappointment and equally brazen desire for vengeance. They also hate that you're not a team player. Because they went their own way once...and it got them nowhere. This is Paco. It was Paco who got all these friends of his into the gang life, and now Paco who is hellbent on tearing it all down because he didn't like where it took him personally.
And now for the second act of the prison sequence, and this makes Blood in Blood Out even better then what we've read so far. As San Quentin has already been deep into the business culture...now it's the early 80s...when business sense becomes ESSENTIAL.
As Miklo returns this time, the function has been off gambling...but on drugs.
One of La Onda's members got hooked on cocaine that was being sold by a BGA (Black Guerrilla Army) member named Pockets ( a funny, scary black dude in a wife-beater who's very clearly hooked as well).
And so Carlos, that's the Hispanic junkie's name, becomes a dealer...and with the help of the dad from "License to Drive" (Richard Masur) who is a lawyer in the law library and a convicted drug trafficker. He supplies Carlos, and takes the form of the CIA...a legal distributor of narcotics...and thus Carlos starts bringing in the holy fuck of cocaine from Bolivia. Peruvian cocaine was always regarded as crap even though it grew everywhere on the Andes Mountains that rain and ocean-bred humidity couldn't touch. Instead, Bolivia was ground zero for choice cocaine in the early 80s, before the DEA started going after international production of ether -- the main ingredient that turns coca leaves into the alkaline powder that can be absorbed through a nose. But anyhow, Carlos and Richard Masur are engaged in a trade that mirrors the secret Nicaraguan war, where Hispanic drug lords were selling to black drug lords who then armed the street gangs in south central L.A. who insured them as well as their Somozan bretheren in Managua who were fighting off the Sandinista communists. The Nicaraguan civil war resulted in a crack cocaine epidemic in African American communities throughout L.A. and beyond, as is the end game the Aryans supposedly have for the blacks in Quentin, with the chicanos having their bloodied fingerprints all over it.
Who previously only made money from weapons trafficking and...that's right...gambling and prostitution, as was, respectively, Miklo and Popeye's gigs while in Quentin throughout the 70s.
Casino (1995) with Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci spoke of how casinos started taking bookies off the streets in the late 70s to copy Sam Rothstein/Lefty Rosenthal. This explains the shift from gambling to drugs in lots of places. Any carnival cruise with a blackjack table for instance. Why do it on the street when you can do it legitimately?
And even though everyone likes to gamble in San Quentin, what happens in this final hour of the film demonstrates just how much of a foreshadowing it is that only Miklo appears to be any good at it...
So now in early 80s San Quentin we have Carlos and Pockets vying for control of the drug trade. Carlos discovers that he can afford all the stash in the world if he only starts dealing. Carlos of course ends up butting heads with Montana, for being a drug dealer is about the farthest thing from Montana's wishes.
Like with Popeye's "pimp mobile", Montana will allow Carlos to go and do business freely. Without shanking him. He can't shank him. Rider's now his insurance policy.
The whites are supervising and insuring the sales and distribution of Carlos...for the purposes, they claim, of breaking down the blacks.
Just like the claims made in those Gary Webb chronicles about the Nicaraguan war.
It is the litmus test that shits out a plan in action for Miklo to eventually become ruler of the whole prison...the Aryans watch as Carlos freely goes and does his thing...which essentially tells them oh, so you La Onda people are scared of us, huh?
Like the BGA from this point on, the Aryans decide to tell Magic and Miklo -- yo, that gambling debt we owe you...STICK IT, bitches!
Which translates in Miklo's mind to -- They're closing in on us and will kill us. Every Hispanic in this house is about to become dog meat....
So...Miklo and Magic wait as things develop the way they would uninterrupted...
Carlos's brother goes down to L.A. and tosses a bunch of grenades into the BGA's big drug store -- a club called Cheap Times.
In harrowing fashion, he rushes in while a bunch of black folks are dancing to "Superfreak", pulls the jukebox and goes "BROUGHT YOU MONKEYS A COCONUT...FROM QUEN-TEHHNNN!!!"
And so Bona Fide and the BGA have a meeting with Montana and La Onda.
What the fuck was that?
Montana tells him the truth -- that was Carlos's personal trip. We had nothing to do with that.
The truth is that Bona Fide likes and respects the hell out of Montana. Bona Fide likes Montana's idea of "black and brown" coming together, and particularly the fact that for this entire movie thus far, up until now, there has not been a SINGLE INCIDENT BETWEEN THE BLACKS AND HISPANICS outside of a minor little moment where Geronimo creates a distraction for Miklo to shank Al by spilling a ladle of hot water down the back of a BGA member in the kitchen. But Bona Fide also has a reputation for connivery, and he has a pick for his hair that is like Cerano's JoBu from Major League. Just like the whites combine Nazi ideologies with southern accents in order to scare the minorities, Bona Fide's personality is a combination of numerous things that blacks have historically used to scare whites -- he's a Black Panther who likes voodoo. And his assistant Cyclone likes the Raiders.
The thing to understand about this movie is that it was directed by a white dude who previously did romantic comedies. He doesn't particularly, during the extent of this movie, ever get "inside" the Hispanic or the black experience. And this particular weakness is semi-cleverly disguised as motifs. For those who never went to a stuffy film studies class, motifs are elements in a film that are repeated throughout for the purposes of recalling something in your mind the director wants you to notice. In the Graduate (1967), Simon and Garfunkel songs are heard whenever we're supposed to imagine Dustin Hoffmann thinking about how he's bitten off more then he can chew. He comes home from college and "Sounds of Silence" is playing as he goes through the airport, because he realizes the fun is over. Then "Mrs. Robinson" plays as he's about to bang the older Anne Bancroft whose husband he's friends with. Then "Scarborough Fair" plays in the end after he swipes away Bancroft's college-aged daughter before she marries another man. He goes through all this effort to get her away from a pissed off dad and a pissed off groom, hops on a retirement community bus, and Hoffmann and the girl realize that...they have nothing really in common. Nothing to say to each other. Because Hoffmann never thought that far ahead. Because it was all about acquiring what the world says a college graduate should acquire, regardless of his readiness. A swimming pool serves as a motif in the Graduate as well, because all Hoffmann really wants to do is swim and let his mind rest. In "21 Jump Street", there is this piano music that plays whenever Jonah Hill is interacting with Molly. First at Dave Franco's house when he asks her to prom and then in the end when she's sitting in the back of the ambulance and he's explaining himself. In Blood In Blood Out, motifs include the empamada that Miklo eats upon first entering the barrio, the tons and tons of paintings on the walls, and that freaking tree. To think about what this film would have been if Jimmy Santiago Baca hadn't been directly involved in the screenplay, and Bill Conti wasn't involved in the music. Taylor Hackford the director made a classic film here, one that kicks the living shit out of 99% of the films I've seen, but he doesn't get inside the barrio and he doesn't have anything to add in regards to characters who Baca would have only semi-known such as Bona Fide. What he does instead is intensify the way everything would look to somebody like Miklo.
Montana will go to another prison, Delano, for a while because the wardens can't think to do anything but separate La Onda from their leader for a while. Add to that, in most of the other maximum security lockups around the state, the Hispanics are NOT abiding by black-and-brown-coming-together-based diplomacy. They're cutting each other's heads off. Particularly in Folsom, Chino and Delano. The wardens meanwhile have as much respect for Montana as humanly possible it is for them to respect an inmate. They like him so much that even though he's suspected of ordering hits throughout L.A., they plan to let him see his daughter and let him have a nice clean and peaceful cell. The guards at Delano of course are shit farmers to him, but Ving Rhames isn't, and given that Ving Rhames is the warden's assistant and makes a living sniffing and intimidating suspected gang lords, this says a lot.
Montana's a total hippy by this time. He is Martin Luther King but Hispanic. He reads and writes pamphlets, trying to change the system from the inside, all about being a self advocate and helping others with legal fees and all this. He's come to represent Miklo's saving grace as well as the Hispanic underworld.
But the BGA have a guy in the next cell who SHANKS MONTANA while he's prepping himself with his mirror.
"For CHEAP TIMES!!! For CHEAP TIMES!!!' the man yells."You son of a bitch you think you can blow up my brotha? Uh uh."
Bona Fine and Cyclone insist that they were framed. Nobody buys it of course. Neither do we.
Yet Bona Fide seems to have a little trouble with remembering his comb when he leaves the shower...
At San Quentin by the time everybody figures out what happened, the Hispanics are going nuts. It's a sad sad scene. Montana never did anything, nor meant to do anything to anybody except protect his people. Martin Luther King.
Here comes the great part. Poor Magic, with the goatees and side burns, is about ready to lose it and get himself shot trying to fuck up a bunch of officers in riot gear or something. Miklo assures him...NO!!!! I got a PLAN!!!!
Where does this plan come from?
What is this plan we speak of?
The plan will be to get the BGA to help them fuck up the Aryans...then they fuck up the BGA.
For Montana's murder.
Even though...believe it or not...MIKLO AND MAGIC ARE THE REAL KILLERS!!! They framed Bona Fide so there would be an excuse for Danny Trejo and the other Hispanics to go at them
This plan, to go the extreme Malcolm X way to Montana's Martin Luther King, this extreme brand of conversativism and the executing of it...is the reason why this movie's so genius.
Last we saw Popeye, he was tipping off the cops on the whole plan about the armored van where Miklo was the shooter.
Since then, Popeye gets away scot-free.
He is never brought to justice in this movie.
He even manages to allude the cops enough to put two separate hits on a witness Paco had under his thumb.
He does so even with a big sign on his back that says "Attention: I'm La Onda's Leader"
So Popeye, the fucking traitor on his own personal trip and the asshole of Blood In Blood Out, is how Miklo comes up with the realization that he has to go on his own personal trip, be a traitor to Montana, and be a bloodthirsty war-mongering asshole who breaks every alliance and uses his friends' gruelling, painstaking detective work to kill more people.
And that's how La Onda is saved.
Montana's theories were well and good except for one problem...this was prison. Not the free world. You can't preach Martin Luther King type theories and expect a bunch of asshole convicts to listen. It's an ending that makes you want to puke, but he was right. You just can't be a pacifist in San Quentin.
And Miklo's messed up personality and numerous character flaws...fits perfectly like a puzzle piece into this scenario.
And so Miklo stands...the baddest motherfucker in San Quentin...for doing nothing else then examining the rules of the worst of his opponents in whatever game he's in...and once exploring his options as to a response, deliberately doing the thing that takes the biggest balls even if less gutsy options would suffice.
Just like Paco when he does his police work.
And Cruz when he does his art work, threatening his entire life and fortune to do his own thing. Because Janet sucks.
Magic is Miklo's right hand man because Montana wanted to put a jailhouse lawyer in charge while off to Delano rather than a foot soldier. Magic -- absolutely astounded that Miklo would be cold enough to kill their Martin Luther King if it came to that -- pledges his life to Miklo in a scene that tops anything you've ever seen in any spaghetti western ever. This white boy...becoming the king of the badass Mexicans. It's all he ever wanted. And he did it.
Miklo, icing the great Aztec poet king in his resurrection as a common man misunderstood in his time, locked up and deemed a dangerous prisoner.
Don't cage a bird. They don't belong there, ese.
The final shot of Miklo and Magic has their gang tattoos side by side as their wrists overlap the running sink. Vatos Locos and Tres Puntos throughout the outside world -- finally on their way to uniting. Black and "brown" may not have come together -- Miklo is after all a criminal and a delinquent and his actions cause more racial violence between black and brown throughout California then ever -- but "brown" coming together throughout California keeps untold thousands of young chicanos from getting wrapped up in the same circumstances that sent all these La Ondas to prison. Miklo in effect solves a problem Montana presented to him earlier that Montana, in all his wisdom, would never have been able to solve -- "Everybody in this joint thinks they're a man. They're a number. And they're lining up outside the doors to come back in." It's a problem that, in the 80s, Montana comes to actually RELY ON NEVER BEING SOLVED, because in his mind, more knuckleheads on the outside are his best chance for gaining an adequate army inside and thus never having to pay for his pacifism.
As good as this movie is, I think Blood In Blood Out would have benefited by a non-linear structure. For example, the first part -- where we see Paco as a disrespectful punk and Delores actually proud of Cruz -- would have maybe had twice the impact if it came after we see Delores screaming and blaming Cruz for Juanito's overdose a year later. Seeing the hardened Miklo when he comes out of prison in 1982 and Cruz as a deep, bearded artist with a cane, I think, should have come BEFORE we see Miklo the happy idiot with Cruz walking on his own in 1972...and so on.
Meanwhile Cruz and Paco are friends again. Cruz's family accepts him back in, and they go and see an old mural Cruz did where they're all still young and Spider hasn't come into their lives. It is marked up by tons and tons of adoring young knuckleheads in the barrio who take particular care to draw AROUND their likenesses rather than on them because they think their tale is like Scarface's. Well known it is throughout East L.A. now among the youth about Miklo, Cruz and Paco.
Yet since then, Paco's had an investigation ruined and tons and tons of headaches thrown at him directly from Miklo's new friends.
Paco's full blooded Hispanic...this white boy gets to essentially be regarded as more chicano then me, this arch criminal...I'm trying to protect my community...fahhhhck this punto, ese!!!
But it takes all this for Paco to realize that this whole big mess started...when he dared Miklo to break that rear windshield so many years before.
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