This review was originally posted on News Cult in May 2017.

Starring: Gabriel Chavarria, Demián Bichir, Theo Rossi, Melissa Benoist, Tony Revolori, Eva Longoria

Director: Ricardo de Montreuil

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Petty and Felonious Lawbreaking

Release Date: May 12, 2017

A motion picture is a fine method for introducing the masses to a subculture’s rituals and personalities. Thus the intriguing nature of the specimen that is Lowriders. Cars with amped-up hydraulic systems that allow for the vehicle to bounce up and down have served as set dressing in plenty of films, but they have never really been the main attraction. There is admirable moxie to titling something after an entire pastime, thus implying that it is encapsulating the whole culture. Unfortunately, Lowriders does not do the legwork to illuminate newcomers, nor it does not care to let them in.

Danny (Gabriel Chavarria) is a young graffiti artist caught between two worlds that should be one: the traditional lowrider-obsessed space of his father Miquel (Demián Bichir) and the renegade lowrider-obsessed realm of his ex-con brother Francisco (Theo Rossi), nicknamed “Ghost” for the years he gave up to the law. This is a stock family conflict and thus not particularly unique. Chavarria, Bichir, and Rossi commit passionately, but the conflicts – while believable – are not compelling. Specific details must be added to issues like drinking problems and familial abandonment to make them pop.

Lowriders’ means of letting viewers into its world is primarily accomplished by the perspective of Danny’s new girlfriend Lorelai (Melissa Benoist, the current go-to all-American girl). She is a photographer, eagerly snapping up all that Danny introduces her to. Alas, the film never really explains what she has learned. When a winner is declared at the lowrider competition, it is a key moment that sets up the stakes for the rest of the film. Trouble is, it is not clear what the rules of the contest even are, and thus it is hard to be invested in the rightness or wrongness of any victory. That lack of clarity is a plague throughout: subplots are resolved way too cleanly, there is a weakly attempted swipe at the art world, and at least one character’s motivations are impossible to track. Without attending to the story engine properly, the end result just sputters out.

Lowriders is Recommended If You Like: Shortcuts

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Public Urinations