Some filmmakers have a career where their films slowly decline with each outing (see John Carpenter!), while others sporadically make hits and misses at will. (Classic Steven Soderbergh!) What’s most interesting about the series of Drive-By Chronicles pictures by filmmaker Kenneth Castillo is how each learns, evolves and becomes better then its predecessor. With his first flick "Sidewayz," Castillo showed a potential for telling a unique story with an authentic flavor, while the follow up "Ghostown" went further by infusing a savvy style. "Confession of a Gangster" is by far Castillo’s most polished piece of character work, as he adds one more ingredient to his already aromatic movie blend – time.
Nicky and Jackie are a young and naïve couple of gals who dream of a better life outside barrio. So when an illegal opportunity rears its head, each of the passionate ladies decides to risk life and limb to make moving out a reality. This is all much to the dismay of local heavy Christopher, a feared drug-dealer looking long and hard for a missing bag with his money and weapons. Hot on his trail is disheveled detective Romero, a cop with problems of his own and his transvestite snitch Mariposa, a psychic gal looking to break free herself. All become entangled in the dark web of drugs, money and guns, while ultimately all looking to escape.
It’s a vague description at best, but there are a lot of wonderfully complex factors and story turns going on within Confession. All the characters that inhabit this twisted Latino world have a ton of inner turmoil and subsequently it makes for a myriad of memorable performances. From the singularly focused work by David Fernandez Jr. as the dark and soulful dealer looking for his cash (his opening scene and speech sets the tone for the whole film!) to the multi-layered gusto of Mauricio Mendoza as the slick detective with skeletons in his closet (and of course the two lovely leads Vanessa Alderete and Myrna Velasco as a modern day Bonnie and Clyde!), there are no roles left to waste here. Not to mention that two actors from previous Chronicles flicks (Alvaro Orlando who played young "Sidewayz" and Ivan Basso who was baddie Gabriel in "Ghostown") show up as complete different characters here (as a transvestite and her man-child lover respectively!) and the range shown is extraordinary. But aside from the remarkable character work, there is an undeniable depth in pacing this time around that makes this third in the series a standout. It’s Castillo’s crafty and meaningful way of taking time between slow moments that resonates here and reminded me of the poignant pauses Soderbergh captured in his debut "sex, lies, and videotape" – work with deeper meaning.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some standard movie devices (think Butch and Sundance with estrogen!) that add more fable elements then the previous two more realistic films had, but most are used here to drive the story forward. Because amidst all the blood, bullets and bravado on the surface, it’s the deep human layers that lie beneath that make Gangster a real badass to remember.
Title: "Drive-By Chronicles: Confession of a Gangster"
Genre: Action, Drama
Cast: Vanessa Alderete, Myrna Velasco, David Fernandez Jr.
Director: Kenneth Castillo
Running Time: 95 minutes
Release Company: Plus Entertainment