Sunday, January 16, 2022

Chicago Gangs.

In 1991, Mexican movie producer Orlando R. Mendoza had connections in Chicago and with the help of director Damian Acosta Esparza—they had shot 2 movies back to back about notorious street gangs from the Windy City. It's interesting how Mendoza & Acosta managed to get both movies done and have it in the rental market several months after filming,  but it is a reminder of how these Mexican filmmakers worked. They shot movies back to back very quickly & never going over budget (somehow) and sometimes they even got to make 4 movies at once and I say 4 because the Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes movies weren't the ones they made in that time & place! They also filmed a boxing-drama entitled "De Sangre Mexicana" along with a sequel. Same crew and almost the same cast. Another time I'll speak of the De Sangre Mexicana movies, so now here's the rundown on Chicago Pandillas Salvajes

Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes

Old man Mario (Mario Almada) thinks he has the best kids ever and so much that he refuses a promotion at work so he can be more around his "perfect" family. Well, Mario doesn’t realize that his sons Armando (Armando Araiza) & Alex (Cesar Alejandro) are leaders of the notorious Black Horses gang and his daughter Karla (Laura Tovar) is hanging out with a bad crowd and just happens to be dating Salomon (Salomon Carmona)—the leader of the Latin Brothers gang. A rival of the Black Horses of course. In the beginning of the movie, The Latin Brothers and The Black Horses fight in a warehouse and their rivalry of course stems from competition in the local drug trade which is all run by local drug kingpin “El Monje”. As their rivalry continuously grows—Mario begins to grow suspicious of his children as he finally starts to realize they’re involved in really bad shit and this all leads to something very tragic for Alex. 

Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes is such an usual movie and what is it that makes it unusual? Well for one, the movie seems to want be taken serious by showing us the cruelty of gang life and yet it also seems to heavily exploit it as well. The movie begins with leading man Mario acting like he’s living the good life with 3 perfect kids who apparently do so well in school, thus giving us sympathy for our leading man. There’s also a priest character in the movie who tries to get Armando & Alex to repent from the gang life, yet both brothers refuse any advice & help giving to them. Despite this, you almost feel sorry for them. You want them to not be this way because it is all so unfair for everyone around them. Another character making us feel sorry for them is Mario’s female companion in the movie whom struggles with her own daughter hanging out with a bad crowd. As we see all this melodrama unfold, we’re also seeing gang members fighting each other to a bloody pulp and brutal murders committed by the gangs as well. I do have to wonder if this movie was meant to be preachy and teach us the wrongs of gang life, or was this just another videohome for the Mexican-American audience to rent the hell out of & gush over. I'm leaning towards both opinions and it all somehow works out swell.

Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes II

The first Chicago movie ends with tragedy striking Alex at the hands of Latin Brothers leader Salomon. Several months later, Salomon is suddenly released from jail & cleared of all charges and it is all thanks to his powerful crime boss uncle. Salomon is now back leading the Latin Brothers and he wants revenge on Mario, Armando and Karla so bad. Armando is now fully leading The Black Horses and seems to have parted ways from his family. Armando & his Black Horses continue to deal drugs & commit various crimes around Chicago thus making them the most powerful gang in the Windy City. As Salomon & The Latin Bothers try to take over Chicago from The Black Horses—someone at night is murdering various Latin Brothers members! And of course it is none other than Mario wearing a bandana over his face and wielding a pistol.

Chicago: Pandillas Salvajes II is far more focused on action than melodrama. This time around we’re treated to more gang violence scenes and Mario Almada playing a vigilante at night. The movie ends with a conclusion and it’s a sad one of course. There’s also an unusually long scene with the remaining characters driving out to Mexico. I’d understand a minute or two of driving, but over 5 minutes? Ummm… 

Both Chicago: Pandilla Salvajes movies are quite rare and hard to come by. However though, there is a composite release from the 2000’s entitled “Pandilleros Del Este De Chicago” which combines both movies into one. It’s not exactly a great composite, but for those ultra curious and wanting to see what these movies are like, then check it out for free on YouTube. If you get the chance to see both full movies or the composite, then you’re in for quite the treat since you’ll see the lower west side of Chicago in the glorious 1990’s. Mario Almada is of course excellent in both movies and I’d only wish his vigilante scenes were much longer, but they were still interesting nonetheless. “Salomon Carmona” is also an excellent antagonist since he looks pissed off through out both movies and he's always just talking shit as well. He gives no fucks and I like him a lot for that. He truly stands out in these grand ol’ movies.