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Movie review: 'Chamaco'

Fighting fiercely to survive, the movie's most memorable aspects are its candid, disturbing views of life on the streets of Mexico City.

August 27, 2010|By Michael Ordoña

"Chamaco" (The Kid) is a boxing drama with an unusually high ring IQ. But its most memorable aspects are its candid, disturbing views of life on the streets of Mexico City, informed by a strong cast.

Abner (Álex Perea) is an angry teen who dreams of becoming a professional fighter, but though he's long on guts, he's short on skill. He and his streetwalker sister (Danny Perea of the excellent "Duck Season") cling to each other to survive their abusive father, while Abner's sweet girlfriend sells crystal meth under the heel of a corrupt cop. Meanwhile, kindly American doctor Frank ( Martin Sheen) reunites with son Jimmy (co-writer and producer Kirk Harris), a fading former Olympian who has come to Mexico to recuperate from injuries suffered in the ring.

The performances are solid, especially Sheen's settled, believable turn in a role that could have easily seemed too angelic. The Pereas are convincing, he in his drive and she in her hope. The boxing details are excellent, and as Abner, Álex Perea shows the lightning hand speed that explains why Jimmy sees something in him. If anything, the action seems less authentic when the fighters are supposed to look bad.

The story isn't full of surprises — these people will become intertwined and the wild, furious Abner will have to show discipline and focus to succeed. But though hampered by a clichéd score and forced plot point toward the end, "Chamaco" can be gritty and effective.


"Chamaco" (The Kid). MPAA rating: unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes. In Spanish and English, with English subtitles. Playing at the Mann Chinese 6, Hollywood (through Sept. 2, then at the MPark 4 in Koreatown).

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