Directed by: Cary Fukunaga
Premise: A Mexican gang member (Edgar Flores) kills his gang leader when the leader tries to assault a teenage girl (Paulina Gaitan). The two stowaway aboard a train bound for the U.S./Mexico border while other gang members pursue.
What Works: Sin Nombre is an impressive story of survival, redemption, and hope. The film is shot and edited very tightly and the staging of scenes retains a realism that maintains the credibility of the film. Sin Nombre takes viewers into lives and locations that are not normally seen in mainstream film, but the themes of its story are familiar, and by combining unfamiliar settings and characters with a recognizable story, the filmmakers make the struggles of these people accessible for a broad audience. The empathy of the film is carried by the strong performances of the core cast, especially Edgar Flores and Paulina Gaitan, who bring realism and dignity to their roles. And as monstrous as the gang members are, Sin Nombre takes care in its opening to convey the attraction of gang life and especially the sense of belonging and family that it provides. This is embodied very well by Tenoch Huerta as the gang leader. Huerta does not get much screen time but he makes a big impression as Lil Mago, a father figure gone bad comparable to David Hess as Krug in Last House on the Left or John Huston as Noah Cross in Chinatown. This is a tough movie, as it does not shy away from brutality, but there is a sense of tragedy and hope about Sin Nombre that makes its violence bearable.
What Doesn’t: The familiarity of the plot does make Sin Nombre rather predictable and it’s not hard to anticipate where the story is going. It gets there through excellent execution that makes the foreseeable ending riveting nonetheless.
DVD extras: Commentary track and deleted scenes.
Episode: #289 (May 23, 2010)