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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Bound By Honor (BBH) is not meant to legitimize or glorify gang life, or ennoble Latino culture. It simply tells a story that faithfully paraphrases harsh reality. If you don't get the story, then it's easy to lambaste the acting and directing. If you do get the story, then the acting and directing are good enough.

    Many of the film's characters are people we know: Cruz, full of verve and potential, a victim of the needle; his father, a working class Chicano who wanted better for his sons; Miklo, the fresh-faced well-intentioned misfit driven inexorably to a life of brutality; Paco, the handsome athlete rescued from ruin by the Marine Corp; Juanito, the "mocoso" of the family, whom everybody wanted to protect from the perils of the barrio, tragically cut down nonetheless; Miklo's mom, a party girl ill-prepared to be a mother; Miklo's aunt - strong and responsible - called on to be a mother to her sister's son.

    The prison scenes and subplot are quite visceral. Some people find them laughable or unbelievable, but I find them to be neither. Some liberties were taken, but for the most part, I thought prison gangs, corruption, killings, rape, parole boards, and trade were depicted quite well.

    There are also universal themes: The meanings of home and family; hard but honest work versus a life of crime; the fickle consequences of youthful foolishness, striking down some while letting others pass; unfulfilled hopes, and other hopes fulfilled in unexpected ways; a family torn apart by tragedy with only time to heal the wound; the struggle to right one's ship; generational gaps bridged only by maturity that comes in the wake of mistakes; the constant questioning of oneself.

    It would have been nice to see more character development of women in the family, and some of the actors should have worked on their accents and delivery a little more. Still, I highly recommend this film to anybody in search of a story like the one it tells. To those who don't feel particularly strongly about the material covered, I'd say BBH is no worse than almost any recent big budget film. But to those inclined to greet the *underlying story* with folded arms and a dismissive grin or snort, I'd say spend your three hours watching something else. My verdict: 9 of 10 stars.

    Now I'll address some points raised by those who say the film is garbage.

    1) "It was too long." It was long, yes, but there's very little I'd have left on the editing room floor. I think if one finds the subject material interesting, then the film moves along nicely, despite its length. Also, I think it's hilarious that so many people who despise the film actually watched the whole darn thing! Any flick that keeps you watching for 3 hours can't be too bad.

    2) "Damian Chapa is too white to play a Latino." First, people who say this misunderstand what it means to be Latino, and second, they miss an important subplot. Chapa is a *Spanish* surname, and if Damian Chapa is Latino, then by definition, he's not too white to play one. Latinos of mixed ethnicity are not some Hollywood phantasm, and the treatment of mixed ethnicity and Americanization is a recurring theme in Latino culture in the USA. In the film, Chapa's character is of mixed ethnicity, and as such constantly has to prove he is "Raza" in a way that his peers never do. This constant challenge to his identity makes him fearless and quick to the draw, lest those whose approval he seeks question the make of his blood. For example, that's why *he* is the one to first confront Tres Puntos, not his fellow Vatos Locos. In a culture where fair hair, skin, and eyes are at times a liability, he proved his worth by the only measure his peers valued.

    3) "The acting was over the top." Some of the acting that seems over the top is actually not. Gang members quickly learn to communicate by force of will. Also, they are not generally educated or refined, and in their own parlance, one word can mean many things. So the frequent displays of machismo are not necessarily bad acting, and hearing "ese" and "carnal" repeated over and over is not necessarily bad directing, and the convicts' corny one-liners are not meant to be the witty banter of NPR... but yeah, the film could have been toned down a little in some places.

    4) "It wasn't true to the time period." Critics said the same thing about Doctor Zhivago, but a good film transcends that, and I believe BBH does. The film covered from ~1970 to ~1985, and I had no problem with the settings. Whatever time period mistakes were made weren't bad enough to distract me from the film.

    5) "BBH is a cheap rip-off of American Me (AM)." I saw BBH before I saw AM, so I wasn't predisposed to dismiss BBH as a knockoff. I think AM is depressing and clinical, whereas BBH is uplifting and colorful. Both films cover the same reality and so of course will overlap at points. The same can be said of films about the Vietnam War or the Old West, except that because there are relatively few films about Latinos, the comparison of these two is inevitable. AM is more polished, but BBH is more riveting, probably because BBH makes you care about its characters more. If AM is a sad docudrama with all the loose ends tied up, then BBH is an emotional roller coaster with many questions unanswerable and others simply left unanswered.
  • I first saw this film a few years ago when my brother stumbled across it in a bargain basement basket bin! What a travesty for a start that it had not made a bigger mark at the box office and had been consigned to a cheap basket! I'm sure if released with more fanfare this time it would reach the audience it deserves! It is a story of rival gangs, family, love, betrayal, loyalty, acceptance - every film cliché you could think of.

    It thoroughly explores the destiny of its 3 young stars as they struggle to make their way with the life path they have taken. I won't give away the plot as I believe anyway who truly loves films should see this film in its full glory with no knowledge of the plot or how the film eventually plays out.

    I have been reading the postings, and many negative comments have been made about this film, but I believe this film stands up to much of its unfair criticism.

    I will admit though, that I did squirm at some of Miklo's earlier expressions in the film, but a 3/4 of the way through he really picks up the baton and completely takes over. In fact, he is a revelation.

    There are some cheesy bits of dialogue, but I don't think this takes away from the piece in any way.

    It is a long film, but it needed to be. I don't think there are ANY scenes they could have done without - it is very effective, just the way it is.

    Anybody who has seen it and didn't like it first time round, I employ you to rent it/buy it again and give it another try.

    I purchased another copy of it again just a few days ago. I watched it yesterday and was still moved - as if it was the first time I saw it.

    Its definitely TOP TEN best film material! MUST SEE!
  • jhopp2127 January 2000
    This is one of those most people saw by mistake, late one night on cable. I did too, and found myself talking about it for weeks. The only thing that keeps this movie from being rated higher is its length. At times it is too drawn out, but for the most part it is well acted, beautifully shot considering the settings, and tells a good story.

    I have yet to to find a person who doesn't fal in love with this movie.
  • bkoganbing16 June 2009
    Based on the real life experiences of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, Bound By Honor covers two decades in the latter half of the 20th century as seen through the eyes of half brothers Benjamin Bratt and Jesse Borrego and their cousin Damian Chapa. Growing up more or less together, all three start out as gang bangers, but each has a different destiny and in many ways one's destiny is caused by the actions of the others.

    Borrego gets injured in a gang retaliation and works hard to not become a cripple. He does however become both a painter of note and a drug addict of considerable appetite. A tragedy there sets him and Bratt apart.

    Bratt also winds up in a feud with Chapa. When both were young gang bangers and looking to retaliate for Borrego, Bratt and Chapa are arrested. Because this was Bratt's first offense he got a choice of the military or jail time and he chose the Marines. Chapa however was sent to prison, to San Quentin to be precise where he joined the Chicano prison gang La Onda. Pretty soon Chapa is high in the gang councils and deep in the politics of the prison. Bratt in the meantime joins the LAPD and destiny makes these two collide.

    Bound By Honor has an epic quality almost a kind of Chicano Gone With The Wind. The mostly Hispanic cast do a great job in depicting life in the Barrio. The film runs just about three hours and it's a tribute to director Taylor Hackford that your interest doesn't flag for a minute.

    Hackford also creates many interesting supporting characters two numerous to mention, always the mark of a good film. But your interest is always in the three leads. You get to care about what is to become of them, what destiny has in store.

    There are certain similarities between Bound By Honor and the Edward James Olmos film, American Me. Personally I give a slight edge to this one, don't miss it if it is broadcast.
  • I've seen this movie a couple of times and its got its good points and its bad. It's an interesting story, though generally, it perpetuates the "East L.A. gang member" stereotype. However, it also addresses something I haven't seen before in a movie of this type, and something that was perfectly illustrated (unintentionally) by some of the unfavorable reviews posted here. I'm referring to the character of Miklos, and how stereotypes within his own community about "what is Latin" contribute to the person he becomes. There have been a few reviewers here who feel that the character of Miklos was not believable as Latino, as he was "too" white looking. As I understand, that was exactly the point. He was always having to prove himself as 'more latin than thou' because of his fair skin. Somehow being 'more latin than thou' became akin to being a hardest of the hard gang member. I think that was the most compelling idea out of the movie because that sort of thing happens quite often. Many Latinos subscribe to the stereotype that "all latinos are a sort of medium brown". Forgetting that "Latino" is not a race. It refers to ethnicity. You can be of any race and still be Latino. Those who don't fit into the stereotype of appearance sometimes try to find another way to 'be more Latin', and become susceptible to other, more insidious stereotypes. I've known my fair share of blue eyed blond "Miklos" who felt compelled to prove their "Latin-ness" by being a thug. So despite what has to be a record usage of the word "ese", I found this movie a worthy viewing due to the addressing of this topic.
  • wigz26 May 2000
    I've seen this movie about twenty times and would gladly watch it again anytime.Literally.Damian Chapa has been robbed of any real recognition for what I think is one of the best performances ever to be put on film.Miklo rules.I've never seen the extended laserdisc,but I'm sure it kicks even more ass. This movie will survive the test of time.
  • disaia-117 September 2007
    I saw this movie by chance and was expecting it to be some low budget flick with gang fights in it, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good this movie was. I put the DVD in and was planning to only watch a few minutes before going to bed, but the movie was so good and interesting that I watched the whole thing.

    I'm also surprised this movie didn't win many awards. I notice it only won best director in Japan. This should have at least been nominated for best picture (Schindler's List won that year).

    And speaking of surprises, the plot has some good twists and surprises of its own.
  • i believe that is one of the better movies ever to come out. a truly amazing story of what life can entail between brothers and how the choices you make defines your direction in life. OK, one might argue that it is rather cheap in the budgetary sense and consequently not a respectable director nor actors are in it makes the flick only more interesting. The acting is however quite good and the prisoners are more than realistic. In other words it gives a nice insight in US (prison-gang)life. On top of that i personally am a great fan of true stories as this is. it is a shame that bad distribution has not given this the place in movie history that it deserves.
  • Not many people have seen the movie over here in Holland, but the people that have seen it, love it. the movie is complete! the story is great, the acting at some times a bit overdone but it doesnt hurt the movie at all. The movie changed the lives of many friends and myself.. It's just the best movie ever. Dont listen to the people that say it sucks... they dont understand the power that the movie has!! la onda is our destiny!!
  • I am quite often moved to comment when a movie has a wide range of good to bad reviews. This movie is a classic case. Several people called it the worst movie they had ever seen, or words to that effect. Is it? Hardly. It also isn't the best movie ever made. It is long, I'll grant the complaints about that, but one of the beauties of video is you don't have to watch it all at one time. Over-acted? I think that has to do with the genre.

    Okay, it isn't the best movie ever made. But I can sum up all of its shortcomings with one contraticting word. It is compelling. I can very much relate to the reviewer who mentioned getting hooked on it on tv in the middle of the night. It is a compelling movie in spite of its shortcomings. Even if it seems overacted, it is compelling because it seems so real in spite of the overacting.
  • i was bored one evening and someone mentioned to check this movie.

    i rarely like movies which are very long but i figured what the heck i'd try it

    since then i have ordered dvd of the movie and seen it 5 times in 2 weeks

    this movie only might have 1 real problem, is when actors kinda overact their roles, which you could see in the movie, however its pretty acceptable in this movie

    great movies usually defined by great actors acting out the roles/story as well as other features(irony/etc)

    well this movie had a real great story, well written script which at any point in the movie was never confusing(often problem with long movies, you loose the track on some heroes and movie jumps a lot)

    i think that most great movies should have good irony, well this was no exception! i will not go in to the details but anyone who seen this movie will agree with me

    i think everyone should at least see this movie once, but thats just my humble opinion

  • cheshire-820 August 1999
    Rarely in my life I find myself glued to my seat for an entire movie, not to mention to one over 3 hours long one. This is one I did so twice: once 6 years years ago and the second time about a year ago. I love the work of Taylor Heckford, he is a great storyteller and a brilliant director.

    Although the acting is somewhat blown up, and the movie suffers from over sentimentalism from time to time, it is still nothing less than outstanding and erosive.
  • I first saw this movie in 1994 when I was 10 years old and I loved it even then. Now, almost 10 years later I saw it again on DVD, just to see if it was as good as I remembered. Believe me, it was better! I love this movie, it's definitely on my Top10 films, all categories. It really touches you inside and the actors are great. Some say it's too long 3+ hours, but I wish it was longer, I can't get enough of it. Two words, buy it.
  • Immediately, the movie drove me nuts with poor acting. I tried my hardest to ignore this and actually started to get into the movie. However, there was a point in the movie when the white guy just completely ruined it with his persistent wannabe Mexican attitude / accent. I tried very hard to look past this, but the other actors were just as bad and got my mind diverted from what was really going on. I really think the story has potential, but it was poorly acted / directed. It has been rated rather high here so I say give it a watch to see if you agree / disagree with my comments. I think its pretty obvious that the acting is so poor that its hard to really give credit to this movie. Perhaps this opinion may be a bit shallow but sometimes it's hard to get by.
  • I, like many others, stumbled across this film by accident and man am I glad I did. This is one of my favourite movies of all time.

    The film follows the story of three brothers growing up in east Los Angeles whose lives are suddenly changed in a gangland feud. Each are forced to take separate paths, yet they remain intertwined with ties of blood and honour.

    This is an immense film of power, respect and loyalty and is a must see for any movie fan. I have yet to meet anyone having seen this film who was not moved and exhilarated.

    Absolutely brilliant!
  • I don't know where the previous review of this abomination came from, but any sensible person will see this film as a pathetic attempt to honor some stereotypical "Latin brotherhood" ethic. It even panders to the point of including prolonged prison scenes where a bunch of Latino actors get to wear shirts buttoned to the top, flash a lot of gang signs, and call each other "ese" and "homes" way too often. The film's design is laughable (the film is supposed to take place from 1973-1984, but all the hairstyles and clothes look early '90's). Worst of all, this turkey honors the age-old insult of having a Caucasian actor (the blank-staring blond robot playing Miklo) as the central character in what is, ostensibly, a Hispanic story. What a joke...I'm just glad I caught this on premium cable and didn't fork over four bucks to rent it.
  • My late-teen son has been raving about this movie for some time now, and when he put on the DVD this morning I was at first going to leave him to it and go watch the tennis matches on TV, lol. On my way to the stairs, however, I found myself standing there and watching at least the first ten minutes, until my son convinced me to settle down and watch it with him.

    I've read the widely mixed reviews here about BIBO and I can see both sides of the coin. There is great diversity in the quality of acting and dialog, and it could have been at least a half hour shorter. But the bottom line is, I sat and watched a 3-hour movie on a Saturday morning - very unusual for me - and it kept me involved the entire time.
  • Oh dear...what a mess.

    This film is so incompetently written that it could be used masterclass in how not to write anything at all. For a start it is repetitive beyond all belief: same riffs on blood ties, brothers, mothers, fathers and cousins etc etc etc ad nauseam throughout. Tedious to a degree that is extraordinary that it passed the producers.

    Secondly, the script has two pitches: loud and violent. That also makes it very boring. It is obvious how things will be shown in these two modes. A violent film can work on other levels but the writers are so inept that it escaped them to give this a few more tones.

    Thirdly, the story lacks precision as if it lacked a good editor. Therefore it has adopted the familiar course of amateurs, and that is to add everything in the story without giving it a balance and counter balance. There is no editorial overview of how to shape material within a reasonable time period.

    It is also very very long ..."Anna Karenina" is long, but that was by Tolstoy and he has some claim to be one of the greatest writers of all time.

    Fourthly, the actors: oh well, and the report card is depressing. Basically two modes of action. The leads are all generally terrible, especially Mr Chapa, whose performance might be compared to a guard dog with distemper. Such monotony should not be viewed in a feature film.

    As with anything that that exemplifies all that is detritus in film making, there are so many other things to mention but space precludes a fuller list of its faults. The music for instance, with its deliberate sentimental Spanish guitar style in the few quiet moments showed all the artistic intelligence of a fast food restaurant franchise.

    Almost anything on earth is better than wasting the time that is this dreadful waste of one's own too short life.
  • agalaviz217 November 2004
    I love this movie. I saw it when it was still at the movies. I wished it would of kept going. My buddies and I would go out drinking and say the lines word for word all night. Then we would go back to the house and watch the movie. My friends and I were so into that movie that we flew to L.A. and went looking for a lot of the sites used in the movie. Every place except the prison of course. It was the coolest thing I had ever done. I'm planing on going again with some family members this time. My wife's cousin lives 130 miles from here but, we're always on the phone or e-mailing each other saying something about this movie. There's not a day that goes by that I don't say something from that movie. This is the best movie I've ever seen.

    VATOS LOCOS 4 EVER !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I realize that there are number of people who actually enjoyed this movie and in the right hands it could have been a powerful film but poor direction, over-the-top performances and some absolutely dreadful dialog make it almost impossible to take seriously.

    Hands down the weakest link in this film is Damian Chapa. Don't get me wrong, Chapa has proved to be a fine actor over the years but his performance in this film is almost comical: His eyes flare, he pounds his chest, he over emotes. Chapa presents MiKlo as a caricature.

    This film is also a good 45 minutes too long and the needless director's cut drags things out even more.

    Worth checking out if you're a bad film buff, all others stay away.
  • When I first saw this movie, I was about 13 and with my friends, we used to imitate many lines from this movie, "Vatos locos forever", "Life is a risk carnale", etc. I am not of latino descent, but, I was touched by many parts of the story.

    I think many people make the mistake of associating this movie with being latino or that its a stereotype. I find that the real depth of the story is far beyond just that. This is a movie about acceptance, the need to fit in, the struggles of belonging to a minority, prison gangs, pride, family and the way different people get shaped with time and circumstance. When you start this movie, you can not imagine how far it will go and how the different characters evolve and the acting is great, all the actors picked fit perfectly their roles.

    There is so much in this movie that I wont go into details, but to briefly explain, the story revolves around three cousins who are all completely different but bound by blood. They all seem to be going on a certain path which becomes radically changed early in the movie when their paths diverge dramatically. Its along these paths that you get a glimpse of society at those times, of hardships, of unfair circumstances and of survival.

    This is really a great movie, one of my all time favourites. I have watched it probably more than 10 times and will continue to watch it again and again. Enjoy! 9/10
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It is amazing how you can start with no real expectations at all, only to find yourself ending up with a real gem of a movie. That accurately sums up my experience when I first saw Bound by Honor/Blood In Blood Out.

    Behind the shy, inconspicuous exterior lies a powerful, almost real drama about the lives of three LA gang members who find their world changes as they grow up. Drug addiction, life in prison and 'betrayal' are the main subjects here and they don't fail to demand attention. I must honestly admit that I have watched this movie in awe, until the closing credits were gone. It's that good.

    Most of the actors aren't that famous (alright, you might recognize Benjamin Bratt for his role in Law & Order) and those who are have no real starring roles. In my opinion, this adds to the 'real feel' of the movie and is one of it's strong points (the casting, that is). Even Damian Chapa isn't bad in this movie (he usually is, think Street Fighter... Or U.S. Seals 2 :S) and I must praise him for his work. Both stars and supporting actors performed magnificently.

    But in my opinion, the real credit should go to the writer and the director, who made such interesting and real topics in to an engaging, 3-hour long drama that manages to captivate it's audience. A genuine masterpiece, I would strongly recommend this movie to anyone.
  • This movie doesn't wear well. While the themes and perhaps the intentions of "Bound by Honor" might have merit in other hands, "Bound by Honor" as a movie itself is so clichéd and sophomoric it becomes laughable when it's not being annoying. Its situations are formulaic, its white villains cartoonishly drawn, its "nobility" of the barrio/ghetto contrived and over-simplified. It actually paints a picture of the Hispanic ghetto life it that is far more derogatory of such ethnicities than typical Hollywood fare. The protagonists come off as weak-willed, mewling complainers prone only to every media-themed addiction, self-destructive behavior, and victim-label that modern sociology can bestow. It is, in fact, pure sociological pretension and conceit.

    "Bound by Honor" is hokum and silly stereotyping passing for "socially aware" and "brave" drama. It is an ill-conceived and dangerous disservice to the very people it ostensibly aims to empower. A very crass but accurate descriptor of this mess of a movie is "bulls***"
  • I stumbled across this movie late one night on cable. Boy was I lucky. This is an entertaining story of three blood brothers from the wrong side of the tracks. The most dramatic parts involve the descent of the talented artist Cruzito into a world of drugs. In my opinion though, the highlight of the movie are the scenes where Miccolo is in prison. It really gives an accurate portrayal of the gang violence of the California prison system. When Micolo plots the downfall of the rival gangs, there has never been a greater sequence captured on film in my opinion. A pre-stardom Billy Bob Thornton plays a neo-nazi, is a added bonus. The movie is pretty long, but well worth it.
  • whpratt120 September 2005
    Recently viewed this film which was called, "Blood In Blood Out" and could hardly believe the great details and realistic way this film was produced. There is no doubt that it showed what Prison Life really is like among all races, Black, Brown, White and many more and how each group has to struggle to exist and at the same time have fun, make money and kill each other. If you wanted sex in prison, you had plenty of willing partners and it just might be a very difficult and hard way to deal with it, or just simply getting raped when you least expect it. A young guy gets out of jail and tries to go down the straight and narrow path and winds up losing a body part and is constantly trying to become a gang member. There is a guy who has a great ability of being an artist, drawing great paintings and he gets cut up and his back twisted like a pretzel. If you want to go to prison, watch this film and it just might change your mind completely. Plenty of action and it goes none stop through out the entire picture.
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