• R, 2 hr. 6 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:    Edward James Olmos
  • In Theaters:    Mar 13, 1992 Wide
  • On DVD:    Jan 7, 2003
  • MCA Universal Home Video

American Me Reviews

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flixsterman flixsterman
Super Reviewer
January 14, 2009
This one could have easily been titled Mexican-American History X. It's a little less polished but every bit as captivating.
Cassandra M
Super Reviewer
October 19, 2008
"American Me" is arguably the most significant film not discussed in the same breath with crime epics such as "The Godfather." It was clearly made, both consciously and perhaps subconsciously to be the Mexican Godfather film and that is hardly a bad thing. Its honesty regarding the emotional costs of violence and murder are on par with that film. I don't know what to say to anyone who critiques Edward James Olmos. First, this actor's capacity to convey a complicated range of emotions without words is absolutely staggering and has been seen to great effect in many great films including "Blade Runner." Additionally, he is inarguably the premiere Latino / Chicano filmmaker and actor of all time. If you look at the films he has been involved with, think about how they have dominated the way Hispanic people, Mexicans in particular, have been seen by others who would, largely, not even know of the experiences of their neighbors. "American Me" is so unflinching that, after seeing it, I had to see it again to believe it was actually made by or released by a major studio. Once upon a time studio films featured honest portraits of life but rarely any more. "American Me" tho hardly the knee-slapping comedy some reviewer wanted or expected, conveys an honest sense of the life lived by many without the hope of education or prosperity but with the same need for respect and something bigger than themselves to believe in that you or anyone else has and lives their life by. If you want to see a life perhaps very different than yours depicted with uncommon honesty, watch this film.
Aaron N
Super Reviewer
December 6, 2006
Montoya Santana: I'm sorry to hear about Neto.
Yolanda: I don't know what to say to you.
Montoya Santana: Whatever, you know.
Yolanda: You're like two people. One is like a kid. Doesn't know how to dance, doesn't know how to make love. That's the one I cared about. But the other one, the other one I hate. The one who knows, the one who has this wrapdown, who knows how to run drugs, who kills people!

Essentially, this movie is the Goodfellas to East LA. Olmos starts as a man who has spent most of his life in prison, where we see him develop gangs from within. Prison does not change him for the better concerning crime, he keep his mind focused on what is the best way to achieve his wants. He is not an evil person, he is against drugs and wants people to coexist peacfully, but methods he goes with are violent. Upon leaving Prison, he likes how things are on the outside, but is not as much a hero as he was inside, it challenges him. There is a very good message that comes with this story, which was based off true events. It is hard and gritty, with a great performance from Olmos.
Cinema-Maniac Cinema-Maniac
Super Reviewer
November 10, 2013
"You're like two people" we hear a voice say in American Me and that line applies to the film itself. One half prison film on Montoya Santana building an empire and one half fish out of water exploring Santana living outside of his bubble experiencing the real world for the first time. These two vastly different world unfold right before our own eyes are similar to our very own lives. Individuals following rules, helping one another in a community, facing consequences for breaking a path, hierarchy of power, and among other things. Asking one very important question by the end; Should we attempt to fix things we didn't create ourselves?

American Me follows a Mexican-American Mafia kingpin release from prison, falling in love for the first time, and grows introspective about his gangster lifestyle. The story is based around true events, but when the film tells it audience some events were fictionalize it all hits home without losing any shred of impact. It's portrayal of criminal life is not one sided only wanting to portray greed, honor, or a place of belonging. Instead it chooses to explore choices and how influential ones action can affect a generation. How something like violence becomes a common occurrence in someone's daily life. Exploring serious themes without a scapegoat placed on person or race, but specifically culture itself. Santana says at one point in the film "What we'd done in Compton was wrong. It was supposed to be business, but came out racial". This simple line of dialogue gets across Santana personal feelings, but beyond that translates into a greater understanding of the crime world presented. Not all act of gang violence are fueled by racial tensions, not all criminals can get behind an act of violence, and not all criminals are accepting to negative change. There is allot more thought put into it than just obtaining power. Machismo (Spanish word meaning strong or exaggerated sense of manliness) culture is highlighted in the film leading to dehumanization. Can the habits of someone life takeover them to the point the soul that drive those habits destroy them? It has those answers no matter how difficult it is to accept the answers it provides us.

In American Me we have traditional characters alongside traditional issues; however, what separates American Me from other Hispanic crime films is the highlighted theme of two. Our film begins before our main character is even born. Upon seeing this prologue one might be quick to believe that Montoya Santana father unable to view his son in a positive light is because of how Santana came out, but instead is seen differently through his father eyes. It's not what Santana did, but the reason behind it that he represents that disgust Santana's father. All throughout the film we're given one way how a scene plays out, but multiple layers behind the action committed in the film allowing two ways of seeing it. What comes across as a crime film exploring the difficulty with its own lifestyle becomes relatable. Dealing with the subject of one's own trouble identity in face of other individuals, other groups, other cliques. At length, creating or joining a clique or gang that may facilitate or solve the problem of seeking one's own identity, purpose in life, and place in society at large. Focusing on the true core of these issues never specifically applying only to a single group. These characters and their action might be different from our own never are they to far from allowing self reflection.

Edward James Olmos spotlessly portrays the leader the highly sensitive and aware of what leaders. Emphasizing the importance in creating, maintaining a particular image for success in the clique, which is to say in controlling perceptions at large, to command as well the respect of rival group members. William Forsythe has an equally fascinating appearance throughout the movie, as a no-nonsense gangster. Sal Lopes through his exterior embodies a broken man with coldness to everything. He hints of a more trouble man hidden beneath years of scars. The cinematography is impeccable, as is the case with the sound, and musical accompaniment or soundtrack. Direction is spotless with scenes being driven with passion behind the camera. Capturing the authenticity of the story and the raw emotion of it story.

American Me is a masterpiece beyond filmmaking becoming more than a film. It's piece of reality showing its ugliness and beauty with two different views. Bringing to light an issue all too relevant and common problems. Lifestyles or belief systems can be larger than life, larger than what humans sometimes can control themselves.

Special thanks to Alex A. who recommended me this under appreciated masterpiece. If anyone likes a great crime film you won't be disappointed with American Me.
Remi L
Super Reviewer
March 22, 2009
I saw this super-violent, hyper-sexual movie when I was a sophomore in high school. I still don't see what it has to do with Sex Education other than avoiding prison.

It was a while ago, I understand that the gang violence was bad, but I didn't really walk away from it with anything other than being really disturbed by all the rape scenes.
iLeo iLeo
Super Reviewer
½ December 26, 2007
A personal favorite. Love this film!
Jonathan P ½ July 29, 2013
American Me tries a bit to hard to be the Mexican Godfather unfortunately the protagonists aren't all that likable and even the Edward James Olmos is a fantastic actor he just didn't fit the role. American Me isn't as appealing as most gangster flicks but is an interesting take on the formation of El M.
muveeKween muveeKween ½ June 6, 2012
Really liked this film. I thought this movie was going to be boring but I was surprised to have seen such an exceptional film. Very gritty, strong "Gang" movie. Phenomenal performance by Edward James Olmos. I can't believe he directed and starred in this movie. Bravo!
landshatfield75 landshatfield75 ½ March 12, 2011
This is a straight out movie of how the system works. If you havent seen it this movie would you would want to see but not around kids. It has gang life and mostly in prisons is what the hole movie is about. it has twist in it to make the movie more involved.
V E January 13, 2007
A very true and sad story about the cholo life that goes on in L.A.
Sometimes getting out of the life that you are born into is difficult to get out of. Especially when consequences follow.
chadcollier80 chadcollier80 ½ June 24, 2008
Excellent as a movie. Plus, a few of the consultants for this movie were killed because they allowed one little mistake into the script. Oops. Still, Edward James Olmos was never better, either before or since, not even on Miami Vice, which he was good on too.
C.G. C April 24, 2008
This was a very powerful movie ... but it was too much for me... when it came out on video (yes i said video) my whole family decide to watch it and not all together so it was burned out.
ElFabulosoTrio ElFabulosoTrio ½ January 23, 2008
According to "60 Minutes" (1968), three people who acted as consultants on this film were later murdered because of the depiction of a homosexual rape scene that reportedly deeply offended the Mexican Mafia's machismo.
R.C. K November 26, 2007
I tend to see Edward James Olmos on a cover or cast list and immediately lose interest.

Don't get me wrong, this is technically unfair because I actually think Olmos is a very good actor, but I find he tends to show up in lame movies which waste his talent. I later noted positive reviews--and then that Olmos in fact directed this one. I was more interested now, since it's better not to see someone with talent wasted, and surely he wouldn't waste his OWN talent.

Inspired by the story of Rodolfo Cadena, one of the founders of La Eme (aka the Mexican Mafia), but fictionalizing elements (surprise, surprise!) of his life and generalizing things a bit, this is essentially just that, the story of a founder of La Eme. Montoya Santana (Olmos as an adult, Panchito Gómez as a youth) is a Chicano kid who grows up in "the Barrio" of East L.A., forming a gang with pals Mundo (Richard Coca, later Pepe Serna) and J.D. (Steve Wilcox, then William Forsythe) called La Primera. They take a shortcut through another gang's territory one night and break into a diner--the owner of which happens to live adjacent and catches them, leading to juvenile detention for the lot, and a prosthetic leg for J.D. (thus building his correlation to the real Joe "Pegleg" Morgan, and explaining why a white kid is talking with a Chicano accent and is such a close buddy with a Chicano from East L.A.). Events there bring them all to prison eventually, where La Eme is really born and they begin to control Folsom Prison from the inside, the drug trade, prostitution, everything.

Essentially, the film functions as a vehicle for Olmos' own interest in preventing and discouraging gang membership, which is a subject near and dear to him as he grew up in East Los Angeles himself.

He makes interesting choices throughout, with an actor-mounted camera during a depiction of the 1940s' Zoot Suit Riots as the man is carried out into the street by marauding sailors. The soundtrack is composed of 1950s classics and 60s and 70s pop like a Los Lobos cover of "Shotgun" and Ike and Tina doing Sly Stone's "Higher," as well as a stirring, bombastic sort of score with strong, loud strings. The entire plot is told in flashback from Santana's own narration, occasionally poetic, as he recounts the story of his birth all the way through the incarceration we first see him in when he begins telling us.

It's not a movie that jumps up and kicks you, dramatically, nor is it one that you cringe through or restrain cringes through. The message certainly kicks you because it's all very authentic. As much as we grow up with Santana and gain some kind of empathy with him, he never becomes a happy, positive role model--not even close. Even when we see him outside the prison, even when we see him with a woman he sort of cares about, even when he finally starts to accept some responsibility for his actions. It is acknowledged that the film is pretty brutal. It's not gory, and it's not quite Scorsese level brutal, but it is pretty dark, bleak and matter-of-fact about its violence and rape, which adds an appropriate air of authenticity to the whole affair, making for an interesting and good viewing experience overall, though not the happiest one in the world.
soonerfan707 soonerfan707 May 18, 2007
A more modern day tale of todays Mexican Mafia. As close as you can get to the 'La Eme' without having to join it. You see the ruthlessness of what it take to be one of the most notorious gangs in our time. Excellently acted and directed. All actors are without a doubt at their best. Highly recommended.
rcatron081387106 rcatron081387106 May 3, 2007
Awesome flick about gangs and how one learns life lessons in prison and changing to become a better individual.
felixestrada1974 felixestrada1974 ½ May 2, 2007
the reason i like this movie is it was filmed in my old neighborhood and reminds me when i used to be in a gang
soychiquitia soychiquitia March 25, 2007
This film is reality!!!! Some scenes were hard to see......but not beyond belief.
The story was clear on what respect meant. The actors and cast were " Awesome"
raulpole830 raulpole830 March 19, 2007
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