Nicky (Myrna Velasco) and Jackie (Vanessa Alderete) are sick of life in their crime-filled neighborhood, and want to escape to Hawaii. One day, Jackie lifts a bag containing money and a couple guns from its hiding place in a local church, and the two prepare to cut out of town. Of course, said bag is the property of the local bad-ass, murderous drug dealer (David Fernandez Jr.), and he wants it back. While he searches for the money, the cops are searching for him and the two women find themselves in over their heads (even when they don’t even seem to be aware that someone threw them in the water).
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: dabbling in crime for a quick buck NEVER works out. At least not cinematically. The Drive-By Chronicles: Confession of a Gangster is not an example to the contrary, but it works because it manages to frame a common crime story with characters that are more than just stereotype cut-outs. And I think that is what elevates the film: each character not only has real depth to them, but the film doesn’t pretend to try and tie up all the dramatic ends that it exposes. Life is hardly so clean as a film’s conclusion, and this film keeps things a bit muddied to match. And I like that.
For example, the main bad-guy drug dealer, Christopher, is conflicted and hurt by the fact that someone stole from him, when everyone in the neighborhood should know better. Unsure who to suspect, and suspecting everyone, people he has previously loved and trusted become just another victim, which is how the movie opens, with Christopher confronting the priest that he’s known and trusted his whole life about the missing money he had hidden in the church. The film could’ve gone the route where Christopher is just a crime boss intimidating a priest he has no real personal connection to, but by adding just this little bit of dramatic tension, the entire film benefits.
And that’s just one example. As I mentioned above, all the characters, including the cops, have a little something more that is brought to the table, and all the stories eventually intertwine in non-contrived ways, which is why this works. It also helps that the film looks great, though sound-wise I was hoping for a more explosive sound whenever there’s gunfire (but that’s just Hollywood conditioning; if it doesn’t sound like someone is holding a portable cannon, it sounds strange to the ears). Still, that’s a small criticism for something that manages to do so much else right.
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