Since this is making the fest circuit right now and already getting a very nice audience and critical response, it’s likely that Alvarez and Cruz will be coming to a theatre near you some father’s day in the not-too-distant future. And, if you have that special relationship with your father that says “Dad, you’ re an asshole,” then Alvarez and Cruz might just be the art-house indie to watch with your folks… provided you’re a truly bitter person.
Taking on a subject not touched in cinema all too often — that of complete antipathy between father and son where it is the father who is portrayed in a negative light, Alvarez and Cruz will most likely be regarded as an exceptionally brave film to be such a slap in the face of the nuclear family (which it is). In fact, Alvarez and Cruz spits at so many of our nicely held illusions of Hollywood happiness that it will probably become yet another film that gets a distributor, gets a theatre release for about three weeks, and then goes to that dusty video shelf of fest-circuit also-rans.
All of which will be the viewing public’s loss.
Why will Alvarez and Cruz most likely face this fate? It is a well-acted, well-scripted, and well-directed film with the right blend of humor and seriousness. It has enough recognizable faces to be bankable, but it also has a son who would rather not see his father before he dies and a father who rapes his son’s girlfriend (different pairs, just in case you were wondering).
In the film, Alvarez (Alex D’Lerma) and Cruz (Vince Lozano) are a pair of Hispanic conmen/carjackers. They hijack cars, sweet-talk women, have a heart of Gold, and quote The Godfather left and right. If the story were to go the way you might think, I’d just dub the film Alvarez and Cruz: Up in Smoke and start my tirade on racial stereotyping. But the two quickly fill out as characters, and we discover that they are drawn together by similar life experiences. Both have deadbeat dads, both have had girlfriend trouble, and both are trying to get somewhere past the life of being a suburbanized hired gun.
Alvarez father (Bert Rosario) manages actors, including Alvarez (with no attempt to actually help his career), and Cruz’s father is facing the possibility of quadruple bypass. At Alvarez’s father’s birthday party, Alvarez is proposed to by Benita (Nicola Siexas), his girlfriend, and when he rejects the proposal he is dumped. Two days later, Benita goes to audition for Alvarez the older, where she is raped. Now Alvarez must deal with whether or not he will seek revenge against his own father, and what lengths to which he will go in such a pursuit.
Looking over my plot description, you’ll have to take my word for it that this film neither is not a shoot-’em-up action flick, nor any of the other melodramatic ludicrous genre types that such a plot could carry itself into. It is, instead, a finely crafted character drama that moves at a boisterous pace. Although the title currently reads Alvarez and Cruz, it should probably be just Alvarez. Cruz’s ambitions are vague and his conflict with his father is far less compelling and serious than his partner’s. Benita is similarly developed. Both of these characters have more than one dimension, but Alvarez and his father are the only people in the movie with any real depth to them. Still, these are items that could be fixed with a slice here and there on the celluloid, and Alvarez and Cruz’s run on the fest circuit is far from over.
At the end of the day, Alvarez and Cruz is definitely worth making your way to a festival so you can watch it, just in case it doesn’t come to a theatre near you, and it’s worth making sure you locate it on tape after Alvarez and Cruz’s release. Just be warned no matter where you see it: do not take your parents with you.
Reviewer: James Brundage