El Raider (2002)

Rating: C+

Dir: Christian Gonzalez
Star: Gerardo Albarran, Claudia Bernal, Jorge Aldama, Martha Acuna

The discovery that Best Buy started stocking Latino DVDs (Condor Pictures seem to be the main distributor) opened up a whole new arena of what we like to call, “Mexi-trash”, with more to the field than Santo movies. Providing, of course, you have a wife who speaks Spanish – these, being designed for the native market, regard subtitles as an expensive conceit and usually dispense with them.

Going by El Raider though, it’s worth the effort; while undeniably cheap, as melodramatic “heroic bloodshed”, it could easily be from Hong Kong, not north-west Mexico. The titular hero (Albarran), so-named because of his fondness for Oakland gear, leads the Sharks gang, and takes the fall for a murder committed by a member. He gets out of jail to find both his position and his woman now taken, and is thrown out of the Sharks. But soon after, the new #1 and Raider’s girl are murdered; as prime suspect, he has to find the real killer before the Sharks track him down, helped by a woman with an amazing collection of bandanas (Bernal), who has always loved him from afar.

Even Chris had problems translating this one; her heritage is Cuban, not Mexican street-gang. But if we may not have grasped the nuances of every sentence, the story was clear, aided by the characters’ tendency to start cursing in English at moments of stress. The story is well-written, with a number of interesting turns, and both Albarran, who looks like Mandy Patinkin, and Bernal are effective in their roles. The action scenes, however, are terrible; there, a lot could be learned from Hong Kong. But how often do you see somebody say “I love you” – while shooting the object of their affection? In the back. Repeatedly. Moments like that are why we’ll be browsing the shelves for more of this stuff.