Director: Ricardo de Montreuil
Writers: Cheo Hodari Coker and Elgin James
Cast: Gabriel Chavarria, Demian Bichir, Theo Rossi, Tony Revolori, Melissa Benoist, Yvette Monreal, Montse Hernandez, Noel G., Cress Williams and Eva Longoria
Synopsis: A young street artist in East Los Angeles is caught between his father’s obsession with lowrider car culture, his ex-felon brother and his need for self-expression.
*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*
Lowrider culture may not be as huge as it was back in the day, but in some circles and cities – like East Los Angeles – it still is alive and strong. However, even with the name Lowriders in the title, the film isn’t just about the cars, it’s about this specific family we follow that we can probably connect to in our own way. Lowriders may not have gotten a nationwide release or have been promoted that much, but it’s one of those smaller movies that you should try to watch if you can.
Lowriders mainly follows Danny (Gabriel Chavarria), the youngest son of Miguel Alvarez (Demian Bichir), who would rather put his graffiti art all over the city than follow his father’s passion of lowriders. This fractures the relationship between the two, and things only get worse when the older brother, Francisco (Theo Rossi) or ‘Ghost’ arrives – who has an even worse relationship with Miguel – after getting out of prison. Ghost convinces Danny to come work with him at his rival shop to his father before a big lowrider competition, building the wedge bigger between the Alvarez men. Meanwhile, Danny starts a relationship with a photographer named Lorelai (Melissa Benoist), and Miguel deals with his new wife, Gloria (Eva Longoria), who wants him to make up with his sons.
I didn’t have any real expectations for Lowriders to be honest. I thought it would be one of those small films that would be forgotten about or would be okay to watch at the time – boy was I wrong. The film isn’t perfect; some details could have been fleshed out more or resolved better like the relationship between Danny and Lorelai, which does dive into social commentary that stalls the film and take you out of it. Then there’s Theo Rossi’s Ghost, there are times that he goes a bit too over-the-top, but there’s also a moment that Ghost orchestrates that takes the film to arguably a tipping point, but thankfully the rest of the film saves it from being that.
The cast itself does their finest to get everything across. Gabriel Chavarria’s Danny struggles with choosing sides, but never forgetting his art. He’s stuck between two worlds and one that isn’t easily accepted by his father. It’s a nice play on the family drama that is cemented by Demian Bichir playing the quiet, tough and hardheaded father who can’t talk to his sons, but still wants them to respect their heritage. Melissa Benoist doesn’t add too much to the film, other than adding to Danny’s story of figuring out who he really is and which side he should embrace. Tony Revolori and Yvette Monreal play Danny’s friends Chuy and Claudia that don’t get enough screen time as they should. Finally, Eva Longoria’s Gloria also doesn’t get enough screen time, but her scenes with Bichir are great and some of the more dramatic scenes come when they are together.
All in all, Lowriders is a much better film than anticipated. While the film could have punched up some aspects of the film, the family drama and coming-of-age story blend together nicely with lowrider culture and someone trying to find a balance of keeping their heritage and being themselves.
4 out of 5