The Internet makes us all experts. A stop by Wikipedia will turn the most ignorant of people into experts in various topics ranging from mechanical engineering to socio-economic politics. Today Wikipedia, within three paragraphs, taught me all I need to know about lowrider subculture. The fascination with low driving vehicles amongst some Mexican-Americans began after WWII out West. Over time it became a rite of passage for that subset. Teenagers would learn a useful mechanical skill or be able to creatively express themselves through these vehicles. It’s not the most interesting combination of customization and coming-of-age, but LOWRIDERS thinks it is.
Danny (Chavarria) isn’t a bad kid, but is caught tagging public property by police. His expressive outlet is through a spray paint can and he’s legitimately good at it. The law doesn’t see it that way and his father, Miguel (Bichir), doesn’t see it that way either. The alcoholic dad owns and maintains a body shop, and is looking to pass along his auto body passion to Danny. However, Danny is more drawn to his uncle, Francisco (Rossi), who’s carefree, fun, and most importantly, a criminal.
Danny’s torn between the two, oddly enough, when Miguel and Francisco have entered a lowrider competition. Danny becomes a pawn between the feuding and unapologetic brothers who pine for Danny’s attention, looking to validate their own lives. Miguel worries his son will lead a life of crime while Francisco looks for a project to shape and mold. Francisco also is looking for a son since he has yet to have one of his own. Although to be fair, Danny never makes a compelling case as to why he’s entertaining the prospect of picking his uncle’s life over his father’s ambitions.
There are individual scenes and moments that would lead you to believe that LOWRIDERS is heading for a bloody conclusion, but instead it finds a meaningful conflict resolution and emotional evolution for its cast. I was quite shocked because of one violent incident in the movie that I figured would beget more violence. However, it’s nice to see a movie avoid a cliché inner-city plot development and instead go for a finale that satisfies the universal, truistic human drive to benefit the family and make amends.
Before I convey too much admiration for this film, the movie is low and slow, much like the cars in the film. The sluggish storytelling prevents this movie from becoming a unique coming-of-age tale. Side characters, like Miguel’s wife, Danny’s girlfriend, and some of the workers at the auto body shop, are brushed aside and generally are meant for the main characters to expel vital exposition on or bounce ideas off of. It’s not a bad thing, but it also makes the world seem a lot smaller for something that is supposedly and important part of their culture.
Overall I enjoyed LOWRIDERS when it’s focused on conflict and family metaphors, but found it lacking in plot and memorability. It’s a movie that I’m sure will delight a very niche audience. I’m far from being LOWRIDERS target audience, but that doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy something that doesn’t reflect my own upbringing, however the film does a poor job conveying the passion to outsiders like myself.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 2:39:1) The picture quality of this blu-ray is gorgeous, bringing clarity to night and highlighting the lush colors on the vehicles and characters.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) No problems with the overall mixing and audio quality on this blu-ray.
LOWRIDERS: Art, Love, and Family (1:22): This is the first three incredibly short features that attempt to summarize the film’s themes in the laziest way possible. There’s a lot more to the plot and characters than this feature leads on.
Ghost’s Arrival (1:16): A specific feature for Theo Rossi and his character, that’s short on any sustenance.
The Culture of LOWRIDERS (1:02): Once again, short and lacking on anything meaningful and meaty.