La Mission, as Subtle as a Face Punch
Watered-down Jungian analysis meets a GLAAD-approved weepie in Peter Bratt's second feature, starring brother Benjamin (who also produces) as a neck-tattooed macho who will finally realize the damage his rock-hard masculinity has caused during a funeral for a teenage gangbanger, his tears mixing with the rain. As subtle as a face-punch, La Mission nobly continues a necessary conversation about homophobia, but paves the way to hell with its own good intentions. Che Rivera (Bratt), a 46-year-old widowed Muni bus driver, spends his off hours boxing, cruising in his lowrider, raging against the gentrification of his SF neighborhood of the title, and inviting his UCLA-bound son, Jesse (Jeremy Ray Valdez), to pickup basketball games. Jesse, however, prefers male bonding of a different sort, like Castro boy-bar fun. When Che discovers evidence of Jesse's night out, it's gay panic at the Frisco: He pummels and disowns his son. As the Bratts tick off the usual coming-out-narrative plot points, La Mission strains to be both a thoughtful tale of one man's emotional rehabilitation and a critique of outmoded, sclerotic patriarchal customs in Latino culture. It's a laudable goal, but one that too often becomes nothing more than a series of teachable moments—suitable for awareness training at a PFLAG meeting but too earnestly didactic to have much lasting effect.
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