August 30, 2007

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Illegal Tender (R)
A boy and his mom fight the bad guys who killed his father on the night he was born in Illegal Tender, a shrill gangs and guns movie.

Technically, Wilson DeLeon Jr. (Rick Gonzalez) is not the member of a gang. He is however a member of a family consisting of (other than himself) his mother Millie (Wanda De Jesus) and his younger brother Randy (Antonio Ortiz). And his mother, through not technically a gang leader, is one scary woman, all big hair and long nails and histrionic tendencies. After a chance meeting with a girl from her old neighborhood in the grocery store, Millie decides itís time to scram but the college-age Wilsonís not so sure. He wants to stay in his big mansion with his snazzy car and spend time with his girlfriend. He whines a lot about these things, so much so that his mother leaves him in the house and books with the younger kid. When people with guns show up, Whinypants McFancyCar decides that maybe his mother is right about hiding for his own protection and, through a torturous process of visits with gang members and fights with his mother, Wilson very slowly figures out that the men that killed his father on the night he was born really are after him and his mother, in part because they think Millie has a big chunk of money Wilson Sr. was believed to be skimming off the top of his criminal enterprises.

Illegal Tender starts out with the back story ó young Wilson Sr. and young Millie, about to have their child and looking for a way to go legitimate. Then, the movie makes us sit through an incredibly long stretch where Wilson Jr. has to figure out the things we saw in the opening scenes (namely, his dad was involved in shady dealings and the man responsible for his death was a bad dude). Then we have to watch Wilson Jr. and his girlfriend have fights similar (in tone if not in content) to fights Wilson Sr. and Millie had. All of this needlessly stretches out the period from when Millie realizes she needs to run again to the point when she and Wilson Jr. decide to fight back. The fighting back is really all weíre in it for but the movie makes us sit through nails-on-a-chalkboard dialogue to get to the big payoff (which, even for this low-standards operation isnít nearly as big a payoff as Iíd have liked).

Illegal Tender runs out of story before it runs out of film. Were there a good movie in this collection of rap video cast off footage and bargain basement gangster saga, Iíd say it could be found with about 30 minutes shaved off. But with all the overacting (every moment of Wilson Jr.ís emotional angst comes of as teenage pissiness) and the silly dialogue, I doubt cutting the movie in half would cut the lameness out. D

Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality. Written and directed by Franc. Reyes, Illegal Tender is an hour and 48 minutes long and distributed in wide release by Universal Pictures Distribution.