Producer-director Taylor Hackford clearly wants this to be a major cinematic exploration of the Latino experience, from its ponderous near-three-hour length to its more-than-occasional sermonizing. Unfortunately, disjointed storytelling and uneven performances undermine those aspirations.
With script help from poet and former convict Jimmy Santiago Baca, among others [from a story by Ross Thomas], Hackford – relying on a virtually unknown cast – has blended elements of Boyz N the Hood and The Godfather.
Starting in the early ’70s, the plot centers on three youths and follows them into their early 30s: Paco (Benjamin Bratt), a hot-tempered boxer; Cruz (Jesse Borrego), a gifted painter seemingly destined to escape the barrio; and Miklo (Damian Chapa), their half-white cousin who ultimately becomes the focus when he’s drawn into an interracial turf war in San Quentin.
Blood In Blood Out (the title refers to the code of a prison gang) seems compelled to say something profound but too often stands on a soapbox to do it. Much of the story takes place in prison, unflinchingly exploring some of the same brutal themes touched on in Edward James Olmos’ American Me.