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Gun Hill Road

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: 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.
  • Music By: