- Movie Rating -

Boulevard Nights (1979); ★★★1/2

| March 23, 1979

Boulevard Nights was released in March of 1979, just six weeks after Walter Hill’s The Warriors and upon release drew outrage from anti-fascist groups who claimed that both films were inciting violence among urban youth.  Nothing could be further from the truth and even deeper still, it was a mistake the lump the two films together.  The Warriors is a violent and superfluous urban fantasy, while Michael Pressman’s Boulevard Nights is a sincere commentary against such violence.  It wants to make the statement that such violence is preventable and that some young men get caught up in it out of need.

Written by first-time screenwriter Desmond Nakano, the film finds specifics in its location.  This is one of the first films to deal specifically (and, in many ways, respectfully) at Latino gang life in East L.A.  Nakano tries to be real about the locations, the characters, the relationships, and even more importantly he refuses to luxuriate the gang lifestyle.

His is a morality tale is simply told and in a way that invites viewers into this world.  Richard Yniguez is wonderful here as Ray Avila, a mechanic who has been able to remove himself from the sickness of gang swagger that infests his neighborhood.  His dreams are not all the surprising, he wants to open his own business, marry his girl Shady Landeros (Marta DuBois) and live a clean, happy life.  But the only drawback is his own maturity.  Sure, he has dreams, but he can’t resist cruising around or getting into a contest with his homeboys bouncing their cars with hydraulic lifts.

Coupled with this slight arrested development, the other crutch in Raymond’s life is his younger brother Chuco (Danny De La Paz) who is headed into the hornet’s nest of the gang life that Raymond has left behind.  The balance in Raymond’s life stands between Shady and Danny whose worsening problems are really putting him on the fast-track to tragedy.

Obviously, you know where the movie is going but there is never the sense that the actors are just playing parts.  They seem to live in these roles and the movie creates and community and an atmosphere that doesn’t feel like alien territory.  I’m a Sealtest, suburban white guy and by the middle of this movie, I felt like I knew this community.  They are human beings and the problems they have are not all that uncommon.  Yes, the film is predictable but not in a way that is a distraction.

What is aggravating is that this little gem of a film slipped through the cracks and has been all-but-forgotten while The Warriors has gone on the become something of a cult classic.  That’s really too bad because Boulevard Nights really has something to say.  It has people you care about.  It has a voice to a voiceless people.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized
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