Could the Latinx community be getting their ‘Black Panther’? After the low-budget superhero film ‘El Chicano’ recently screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival, it was snapped up by Briarcliff Entertainment (‘Fahrenheit 11/9’) with an eye on distributing it in the United States. Not only does ‘El Chicano’ feature a Latinx lead character (Raúl Castillo) but an all-Hispanic cast.
Castillo pulls double duty, portraying the heroic Diego and his criminal twin brother Pedro. After Pedro’s death, Diego, a police officer, discovers that clues involving his twin’s death connect to a case on which he is working. But as he digs deeper, he encounters a mythological being from his childhood, the Ghetto Grim Reaper. Eventually, similar to ‘Shazam!’, Diego becomes this figure.
The movie was directed and co-written by Ben Hernandez Bray. ‘El Chicano’ marks Bray’s feature film directing debut. Prior to this, he worked extensively as a stunt performer on the ‘Transformers’ and ‘Star Trek’ movies among many others. Joe Carnahan (‘The Grey’, ‘The A-Team’) co-wrote the script. This marks the first film from Carnahan’s WarParty productions. He serves as producer, along with his partner Frank Grillo (Brock Rumlow/Crossbones in ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’ and ‘Captain America: Civil War’) and Lorenzo di Bonaventura.
In addition to Castillo, the cast includes George Lopez, Aimee Garcia, Emilio Rivera, Kate del Castillo, Mr. Criminal, Noel G. Marco Rodriguez, Marlene Forte, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Sal Lopez, David Castañeda and Armida Lopez.
Carnahan had been attached to write the script to ‘Bad Boys Forever’, a reunion and revival of the Will Smith and Martin Lawrence buddy cop series. But when the project stalled, he decided to jump in an work on ‘El Chicano’ with Bray. As he stated:
“I was frustrated with Bad Boys 3, and Ben had been talking about this for a decade. He would tell me that 25% of movie tickets are purchased by Latinos, and so where are their big heroes? We wrote this on spec, and these white oil and gas guys from Canada gave us the money to make it at an under $8 million budget. It got an amazing response at the L.A. Film Festival. We believe in this, and that it can find a big audience and launch a franchise.”
“Just the fact that we’re making this announcement during Hispanic Heritage Month, which celebrates the vital and important presence of Hispanics and Latinos in North America, is wonderful to me. The time is now for a film like El Chicano. A Latino superhero franchise is long overdue, but to have the forces of Joe Carnahan, Frank Grillo, Tom Ortenberg and Lorenzo di Bonaventura in the mix just makes it even sweeter and well worth the wait!”
Unfortunately, unlike ‘Black Panther’, ‘El Chicano’ was made for a micro-budget of $8 million and isn’t backed by a major studio. It is also not slated to open wide, with Briarcliff looking to deliver it to only about 600-800 screens. But it’s a step in the positive direction and should this movie prove successful and demonstrate the power of the Hispanic American dollar, it may force the major players to open their eyes and take notice.
‘El Chicano’ is due to arrive in theaters on March 22, 2019.