Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman) directed this 1993 epic about Chicano gang wars in the California prison system and the differing and tragic paths of three boyhood friends. Half-brothers Paco and Cruz grow up with their cousin Miklo in Chicano Los Angeles, and each in turn is influenced by their violent environment and the prevalence of drugs on their streets. Cruz becomes an artist but winds up tragically addicted to heroin, while Miklo serves time for murder and Paco becomes a cop, setting the stage for a confrontation between the two when Miklo is released from prison. The film strives for an epic feel but takes too long to set up its interweaving stories. It is notable, however, for some fine acting on the part of Benjamin Bratt and Damian Chiapa, as well as smaller roles by Billy Bob Thornton, Ving Rhames and Delroy Lindo. Its depictions of life in the California prison system are harrowing and powerful, and serve as the centerpiece of this urban drama. --Robert Lane
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