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LatinoBuzz Film Review: 'Mission Park'

Photo of Carlos Aguilar By Carlos Aguilar | SydneysBuzz September 5, 2013 at 3:30PM

Armando Montelongo’s San Antonio-based production company’s first release is an ambitious crime drama directed by Bryan Ramirez, a San Antonio-native young filmmaker who makes his feature debut with this film. Taking its title from the street where the protagonists grew up, Mission Park ventures into territory often presented in Latino films, yet one that is usually never depicted with the necessary production value.
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Bryan Ramirez's 'Mission Park'
Bryan Ramirez's 'Mission Park'

Armando Montelongo’s San Antonio-based production company’s first release is an ambitious crime drama directed by Bryan Ramirez, a San Antonio-native young filmmaker who makes his feature debut with this film. Taking its title from the street where the protagonists grew up, Mission Park ventures into territory often presented in Latino films, yet one that is usually never depicted with the necessary production value.

Unlike other similar projects, this work attempts to utilize all the resources of a major Hollywood production in a setting that is, sadly, distinctively particular to the Hispanic community in the U.S: broken homes with kids taking the wrong paths. The effort is commendable given that it doesn’t count with the leverage of a recognizable A-list star or the backing of a major studio; however, in terms of concept, well, to say the least, it lacks originality.


Four young Hispanic kids share a meal at a restaurant, two of them express their intentions of robbing the place while the others are reluctant but serve as lookout. The ordeal goes terribly wrong leaving a woman dead and an unpunished crime that serves as the basis for the entire plot. From that moment on, apparently, they have pledged eternal loyalty to each other. Such event is used throughout the film to justify almost every action whether good or bad, because they all have “been through so much” together. The good guys are Bobby (Jeremy Ray Valdez) and Julian (Will Rothhaar) they grow up to be FBI agents, while the two high school dropouts Jason (Walter Perez) and his sidekick Derek (Joseph Julian Soria) become big time international drug dealers, or at least that’s what they are supposed to be.

Mission Park Poster

Digging further into the plot would leave nothing to be discovered in the film, what one should mention, is that all the expected pieces of this kind of puzzle are there essentially playing it by the book: love interest that splits the two sides, a loving mentor, funerals, narration, lots of narration that is, and almost everything you have seen in any other drug-crime-friends-in-opposite-sides-of-the-law film. Ramirez’s film is functional, it is a precise instruction manual for everything a film should have to make it a film, but it doesn’t take from those concepts to set itself apart. From the “steamy” sex scene, to the endless aerial shots of city skylines to set up each scene, to the overly didactic flashbacks that pretend to show us why the characters are who they are; they all fulfill a crucial role in the film, which unfortunately renders it empty of anything that could make it unique.

It is important to mention that through it all, Valdez remains a great actor who thrives even when the script doesn’t provide more than formulaic dialogue, and clichéd sequences. He shines via a passionate performance that should surely cement his place in the industry and hopefully take him to better things. As for the film as a whole, it is exciting, despite its aforementioned flaws, to see up-and-coming directors from the Latino/Hispanic community tackle stories that could appear undoable with a limited budget.

There are planes, guns, interesting locations, fight sequences, and everything else required to make it believable, that’s an achievement even if the film is irremediably predicable. Perhaps the biggest challenge for Ramirez, and others like him, will be to find an individual voice that doesn’t aim to imitate what has already been done, but one that pursues creative innovation while still being profitable, Mission Park is a rocky but promising star.


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