Big question: What makes "Illegal Tender," Franc Reyes' directorial follow-up to 2002's "Empire," any more valuable than the typical violence-begets-violence crime drama?
Catch it: If you want proof that killers come in all shapes, sizes and wardrobes. A gun in a hand is a gun in a hand, even if that hand is attached to a body with booming cleavage and leopard-print pants.
Bottom line: With a tremble in his voice that gives way to steadfast determination, Gonzalez's first starring role reveals a young actor who understands that a character is actually supposed to change and grow in the face of adversity. But he can't carry all of "Illegal Tender" on his back when his mother (Wanda De Jesus, awful) says things like "download that into your brain" and the movie has little new to say about a past that won't leave the present alone.
Bonus: Don't worry if it's a little awkward when you run into someone from your past at the grocery store. Just be glad that you're not Wilson's mom and it means that you're being hunted and need to leave town!
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
Written and directed by Franc. Reyes; photographed by Frank Byers; edited by Tony Ciccone; production design by Keith Brian Burns; produced by John Singleton. A Universal release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:35. In English and Spanish. MPAA rating: R (for violence, language and some sexuality).
Wilson DeLeon Jr. - Rick Gonzalez
Millie DeLeon - Wanda De Jesus
Javier Cordero - Gary Perez
Randy - Antonio Ortiz