Based on the true life experiences of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, “Blood In Blood Out” focuses on half-brothers Paco (Benjamin Bratt) and Cruz (Jesse Borrego), and their bi-racial cousin Miklo (Damian Chapa). The film opens in the East Los Angeles of 1972 as it is torn apart by violence. When the gang violence hits the three kids, they are affected by their participation in the bitter violence in different ways. Cruz, an artist, becomes crippled, and he sinks deeply into drug addiction. Paco, an accessory to murder, joins the military to avoid jail time, leading to a spot on the LAPD. Miklo, the kid with the gun, is sent to jail, where he slowly rises up in the ranks of La Onda, the San Quentin Latino gang.
I don’t thik “Blood In Blood Out” is meant to legitimize or glorify gang life, or ennoble Latino culture. It provides an accurate portrayal of what life on the street is like, and how seductive and how easy it is to fall into gang life when an individual is surrounded by violence and the possibility of death on an almost daily basis.
Many of the film’s characters are people we know: Cruz, full of verve and potential, a victim of the needle; his father, a working class Chicano who wanted better for his sons; Miklo, the fresh-faced well-intentioned misfit driven inexorably to a life of brutality; Paco, the handsome athlete rescued from ruin by the Marine Corp; Juanito, the little one of the family, whom everybody wanted to protect from the perils of the barrio, tragically cut down nonetheless; Miklo’s mom, a party girl ill-prepared to be a mother; Miklo’s aunt – strong and responsible – called on to be a mother to her sister’s son.
In fact, though many of the predictable elements of a barrio crime film – drugs, violence and killing – are there, there are also universal themes: the meanings of home and family; hard but honest work versus a life of crime; the fickle consequences of youthful foolishness, striking down some while letting others pass; unfulfilled hopes, and other hopes fulfilled in unexpected ways; a family torn apart by tragedy with only time to heal the wound; the struggle to right one’s ship; generational gaps bridged only by maturity that comes in the wake of mistakes; the constant questioning of oneself.
So this film is about much more than drugs and violence: it’s about family, loyalty, coming of age, and finding forgiveness. The man that Paco started out as, is not who he grew up to be, which was inspirational in a way. It just shows that just because your life starts off bad that doesn’t always mean that you can’t change who you are, and become something more than just a common street thug. This movie shows you that family is family, and no matter what your family does it’s never too late to forgive them and start over. It is sad that even though he lost a limb, Miklo never changed his mentality or his ways, and he ultimately ended up the way he started out. At least Cruz and Paco finally grew up, and became the men they were supposed to be. I guess that just goes to show that some people get it, and some people don’t.
It is a long film, but it needed to be and it is effective just the way it is: I don’t think there are scenes they could have cut without the film losing part of its effectiveness.
I would have liked to see more character development of women in the family, but I still think “Blood In Blood Out” is a great film that I recommed seeing.