American Me

March 13th, 1992


American Me

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A Mexican-American Mafia kingpin is released from prison, falls in love for the first time, and grows introspective about his gangster lifestyle.

Release Year: 1992

Rating: 6.9/10 (3,375 voted)

Critic's Score: 66/100

Director: Edward James Olmos

Stars: Edward James Olmos, William Forsythe, Sal Lopez

This epic depiction of thirty years of Chicano gang life in Los Angeles focuses on a teen named Santana who, with his friends Mundo and the Caucasian-but-acting-Hispanic J.D., form their own gang and are soon arrested for a break-in. Santana gets into trouble again and goes straight from reform school to prison, spending eighteen year there, and becoming leader of a powerful gang, both inside and outside the prison, while there. When he is finally released, he tries to make sense of the violence in his life, in a world much changed from when last he was in it.

Writers: Floyd Mutrux, Floyd Mutrux

Sal Lopez - Pedro Santana
Vira Montes - Esperanza Santana
Roberto Martín Márquez - Acha (as Robert Martin Marquez)
Dyana Ortelli - Yolanda
Joe Aubel - Tattoo Artist
Rob Garrett - Zoot Riot Bystander
Lance August - Young Sailor
Cody Glenn - Older Sailor
Don Pugsley - Police Officer
Panchito Gómez - Young Montoya Santana (as Panchito Gomez)
Albert Joe Medina Jr. - Street Mechanic
Alex Solís - Street Mechanic (as Alex Solis)
Raymond Amezquita - Abuelito
Steve Wilcox - Young JD
Richard Coca - Young Mundo

Taglines: In prison they are the law. On the streets they are the power.

Release Date: 13 March 1992

Filming Locations: Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $16,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $3,378,100 (USA) (15 March 1992) (830 Screens)

Gross: $13,086,430 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Rudy "Cheyenne" Cadena was not killed by his own gang as shown in the movie. In reality, he was killed by the Nuestra Familia, the rivals of the Mexican Mafia. As a result of this murder, the Mexican Mafia formed an alliance with the Aryan Brotherhood in 1972, and the Nuestra Familia formed an alliance with the Black Guerilla Family.

Puppet: Can I talk to you a minute?
Montoya Santana: Simon, ese.
Puppet: I heard about what happened. I'm sorry, Santana. Mi carnalito, he messed up.
Montoya Santana: It wasn't his fault, ese. It was all American beef. When they wanna pop you they're gonna pop you. Want some grill cheese, ese?
Puppet: No, thanks.
Montoya Santana: You sure, ese? It's good.
Puppet: People are saying it's Little Puppet's fault.
Montoya Santana: It wasn't his fault, ese.
Puppet: You know me, carnal, I'll do anything for La Eme. Anything. But I'm asking you, please, take my brother's name off.
Montoya Santana: Your brother's name is on a piece of paper, ese?

User Review

Excellent directorial debut from Edward James Olmos.

Rating: 10/10

American Me (1992) was the directing debut of long time character actor Edward James Olmos. This film is a historical fiction depiction of the rise of La Emme, The Mexican Mafia. The movie follows the lives of three street gang members who by a sad twist of fate end up in Juvenille Hall. From there they graduate to the big time. Folsom Prison. Inside the walls of Folsom, the three form the most powerful gang inside the California Penal System.

Olmos turns the story into a Shakespherian tragedy. A story about a dangerous cycle that repeats over and over within certain communities and how the lack of education can be dangerous. Like they say, an idle mind is the devil's playground. Many of these characters had too much "idle time" before they hit rock bottom. Olmos' direction, editing and use of lighting is that of a long time film-maker. The cinematography complements his directorial style. He makes these figures into noble persons who live and die by a code forged from blood, shanks and sweat. Great stuff from Mr. Olmos, a true masterpiece from a first time director.

Sadly, Mr. Olmos has took a lot of flack for this film and has made some powerful people very angry. If I were him I would have taken a safer route and gave the prison gangs some fake names and cut all ties to any "Technical Support" but that's not his style. He should be commended for his efforts because others wouldn't have the courage or conviction to do this. Mr. Olmos doesn't glamorize the lifestyle either. Although they're men of honor amongst themselves I wouldn't want to be in their shoes. But what people have to do to stay alive in prison should not be looked down upon and on the other hand, when one's on the outside they should leave what they learned within the prison walls. Because it's a whole different ball game out here.

Highly recommended.


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