Blood In, Blood Out (1993) – An Encyclopedia of Lessons

“When you expect nothing and get everything, that’s destiny.” — Miklo Velka (Damian Chapa).

‘Blood in, Blood out” (Bound by honor) is a mouth watering, tear jerking and inspiring crime drama film. It was directed by the award-winning Taylor Edwin Hackford (director of ‘Teenage Father’, 1979) and starred Miklo Velka (as Damian Chapa) in lead role. Bill Conti did the music for the film, while the capable hands of Gabriel Beristain handled the cinematography. Its flow and style made some critics place it besides blockbusters like ‘The God Father (1972)’.

The film describes the evolution of three relatives in El Pico Aliso barrio from teenagers into adults. It portrays the life of three similar teenagers whose lives are changed forever by a single event that ensured every ounce of similarity they shared was lost. At the end of the day, one brother must hunt another because they wear different uniforms. One wears the uniform of a criminal, the other the uniform of a criminal’s hunter.

Blood in, Blood out provides the viewer with a mirror of life without a bias. It shows the ever running interplay between causes and effects, how the mistake of one family member affects another. Blood in, Blood out brings us to the realization that in many cases, the law enforcer is as guilty as the culprit for the crimes committed by the culprit.

The tumultuous nature of the street life in El Pico Aliso in the 1980s and early 1990s is clearly depicted by the presence of street gangs, Spanish accents and thuggery. Blood in, Blood out (the films title) represented the fact that entry into street gangs of the time and place was sealed by spilling the blood of an enemy of the gang (Blood in) and being free from the gang was sealed by the death of the member (Blood out). It was a time when teenagers seeking to be accepted by their peers had to do crime. Repeated attacks and counter-attacks that plagued gangs in the 1980s was also accurately described by this film.

The intents of the film makers was to show the other side of the world, where street gangs exist, and help its audience sympathize with the adult criminal such a society bakes a luckless teenager into. This makes Blood in, Blood out an epic filled with lessons that lead us to the realization that our environment and luck determine most of what we call destiny.

Blood in, Blood out portrays how fast a moment can change everything forever, and how old affiliations are severed by new bonds. This masterpiece brings tears to the eyes in one moment, the next moment a smile and the next moment you are in awe of artistry. Moving from the smile reunion brings, to seeing Cruz (Jesse Borrego) fighting for his life on a wheelchair, you smile, then cry. From drug abuse to curiosity that leads to death, this epic keeps switching the emotions.

Combining the genius of Taylor Hackford and the wonderful display from Jesse Borrego, Enrique Castillo, Benjamin Bratt and Damian Chapa was certainly the recipe for success. This film was successful in the art of entertaining and teaching its audience at the same time. The camera angles were impressive, and helped the audience focus on the major events in scenes where a couple of events were running concurrently. Seeing the quality produced by the cameras, it is no surprise that the screenplay was manned by three men (Jimmy Santiago Baca, Jeremy Lacone and Floyd Mutrux).

The main character Milko couldn’t have been played by a better person than Damian Chapa, this role was tailor made for him. He was the picture perfect representation of the loving brother and witty criminal. It is easy to understand why Benjamin Bratt, Jesse Borrego and Damian Chapa were superb when you realize they spent months with legitimate crime gangs in Los Angeles. For those three months, they were learning about gangsters and how to represent their lifestyle better.

The film is even more appealing when you discover that some members of the cast were prisoners. Some prisoners who didn’t partake in the acting helped the crew with technical advice. Giving prisoners a chance to discover their talents, express themselves and improve mentally is one of the reasons the film makers deserve praise. You would also find the character of the film’s crew and cast attractive when you discover that a cast member died shortly after filming his scenes. The death of Teddy Wilson meant the team produced many parts of that masterpiece amid mourning.

In a nutshell, this masterpiece of the 1990s could change your ideas about life. If you are the curious mind thirsty to see heroism, crime, betrayal, courage and the tragedy that can come from curiosity itself, you should see this movie. The next time you are looking forward to using your leisure time to learn important lessons about life and crime, ‘Blood in, Blood out’ should be your destination.

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