La Mission

Sometimes an actor will work on what is referred to as a ‘passion project” or a “pet project”.  This is a usually a movie or a play that the actor is doing for his or her art or maybe something about the project really speaks to them and they just have to do it.  They are often independent films, so the actors are getting paid a lot less than they would normally get on a studio picture.  One example would be “Wonderful World” which was a passion project of Matthew Broderick.  “La Mission” is such a project for Benjamin Bratt.

The problem with projects such as these is that the actors are too close to them.  If there are any problems with the screenplay or, maybe the director, the actor may be blind to such problems.  Since the writer and director of “La Mission” was Benjamin’s brother, Peter Bratt, Benjamin either couldn’t see some of the problems with this movie, or he just wanted to let his inexperienced brother make his movie (the last time Peter wrote and directed a movie was almost fifteen years ago).

The story of “La Mission” revolves around Bratt’s character, Che.  He’s a well respected man in his Latin neighborhood who has had a trouble past; but, is now working as a bad-ass bus driver and owns an auto garage where he fixes up low-rider cars.  He is one macho man.  So when he finds out that his son Jesse, Jeremy Ray Valdez, is gay, he can’t handle it.  “You’re dead to me,” he shouts out to his son as he beats him.  The movie then primarily concentrates on the two rebuilding their relationship.  There are some side stories too, but this is the one that drives the movie.

There is one point in the movie when someone asks Che where they go when they go low-riding on weekend nights in their cars.  Che replies, “We don’t know where were going, with low-riding we take our time getting there.”  Unfortunately, so does this movie.  One moment Che accepts his son back into his life, the next he doesn’t.  There is a love interest in the film and a problem with gangs, and him battling alcoholism.  The movie is all over the place and it takes a LONG time to get there.  It’s one of those movies where every time you think it’s going to end when it fades to black, another scene starts.

Independent movies have it tough.  They give us something different, and change can be good; but, it doesn’t mean they are always going to hit the mark.  Benjamin Bratt does give a fine performance and maybe that’s another reason he was involved in this movie, because it allowed him to show off some skills he may not have been getting from studio pictures.  If that’s the case, he can add it to his demo reel, the rest of us can skip this picture.