Reminiscent of last year's "La Mission" in pitting a macho Latino dad against an only child's emerging sexual identity, writer-director Rashaad Ernesto Green's first feature, "Gun Hill Road," is earnest and well cast, but less involving than it should be. Pedestrian execution and TV-familiar leads suggest smallscreen rather than theatrical destinations.

Bronx-set “Gun Hill Road” finds a father returning home from prison to discover his now-teenaged son is a willowy transgender person who hopes one day to make the full surgical switch. Reminiscent of last year’s “La Mission” in pitting a macho Latino dad against an only child’s emerging sexual identity, writer-director Rashaad Ernesto Green’s first feature is earnest and well cast, but less involving than it should be. Pedestrian execution and TV-familiar leads suggest smallscreen rather than theatrical destinations.

Released after three years for the latest in a series of routine crimes, Enrique (Esai Morales) gets a mixed welcome from the family he’s disappointed so often before. Hard-working spouse Angela (Judy Reyes) is understandably wary of how he’ll react to what she’s come to accept: that their son Michael (newcomer Harmony Santana) is a cross-dresser and identifies as female. Slow to grasp the situation, Enrique indeed does not react well, while other factors (falling back in with the local bad boys, spying the ex-con who assaulted him in stir) bode ill. But script and direction tend to telegraph all events, draining the competently packaged pic of tension, nuance and surprise.

Gun Hill Road

Production

A Simonsays Entertainment production in association with a Small Prod. Co. Produced by Ron Simons, Michelle-Anne M. Small. Co-producer, Nick Huston. Executive producers, Simons, Esai Morales. Directed, written by Rashaad Ernesto Green.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Daniel Patterson; editor, Sara Corrigan; music, Enrique Hank Feldman, Stefan Swanson; production designer, Maya Sigel; set decorator, Grace Yun; costume designer, Elisabeth Vastola. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (competing), Jan. 25, 2011. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, Harmony Santana, Robin de Jesus, Franky G, Felix Solis, Flaco Navaja, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Tyrone Brown, Robert Prescott, Vanessa Aspillaga, SR, Miriam Colon, Vincent Laresca.

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