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La Mission (DVD Review)

11 Jul, 2010 By: Angelique Flores

Prebook 7/13/10; Street 8/10/10
Screen Media
Box Office $1 million
$24.98 DVD, $29.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for language, some violence and sexual content.
Stars Benjamin Bratt, Jeremy Ray Valdez, Erika Alexander, Talisa Soto.

With the image of a tatted-up Benjamin Bratt above old English letters on the film’s poster art, it might be easy to dismiss La Mission as another tired, low-budget gangster movie. But that would be a huge mistake.

La Mission is a multilayered drama starring Bratt as Che, a single dad who lives in San Francisco’s Latino neighborhood, the Mission district, with his son, Jes (Jeremy Ray Valdez). Che has a deep love for his family, culture, community and God — and also his low-rider car. As a younger man, he was an alcoholic and served time in prison. He’s still a tough guy who uses physical strength and violence to wield his power. And though he’s flawed, that’s what makes him real and likeable.

Che’s machismo world is shaken up when he discovers his UCLA-bound son and biggest source of pride and joy is gay. Che at first completely shuts out Jes but slowly begins to accept him for everything he is.

La Mission brings the Mission district to life. For anyone who lives or has lived in barrios such as that, the portrayals of the people and the community are honest, authentic and dignified.

While this film illuminates a lot of social messages on tolerance, poverty, domestic violence, gangs, drugs and gentrification, it thankfully doesn’t try to take on all these issues in depth. Rather, it nimbly weaves these motifs into the main story at appropriate moments, raising a subtle but unavoidable awareness.

The entire cast gives outstanding, poignant performances and bring a richness to the characters. What could have easily been a clichéd caricature is deftly handled by Bratt, who may have given his best performance ever here.

In the way “Sex and the City” is a love letter to New York featuring a close-knit group of friends, La Mission is that to the Mission district with a close-knit group of homies. Their dialogue is sincere, raw, smart and quite funny. It’s hard to not to feel touched by this film.

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