American Me

American Me ★★★★★

American Me is one of the great American gangster pictures and a film that never quite got it's due. Produced, directed, and starring Edward James Olmos, the film is a tour de force show of his great and under-utilized talents. It's also one of the rare gangster films that completely refuses to glamorize organized crime. Depicting a Mexican Mafia lord and his rise to power from within prison, the film eschews Coppola's nostalgic romanticization of gangsters in the Godfather films and Scorsese's sleek embellishments in his mob films. Although Olmos' character originally founds his gang to organize and protect themselves against a dangerous environment and reassert their masculinity that had been denied to them by America, his group, like all gangs, quickly becomes corrupt and concedes to a violent and authoritarian way of life. American Me is a painful and brutal film that doesn't flinch from depicting the grotesque details of the Mexican Mafia's exploitation and murder of their own people and America's fascist and white-supremacist ways that gave a number of impoverished Latino Americans no choice or opportunity other than to give into lives of crime. The film, infamous for offending the real-life Mexican Mafia in its depiction of male-on-male rape scenes in its prison sequences and leading to the deaths of at least two consultants of the film, makes no Hollywood concessions to criminal life. American Me has an authenticity that surpasses any American gangster movie.

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