Movie Reviews

Film Review: “Sin Nombre”

(Focus Features. 1 hour, 36 minutes. Rated R for violence, language and some sexual content. Directed by Cary Fukunaga.) Paulina Gaitan (Sayra), Edgar Flores (Willy/El Casper), Kristian Ferrer (El Smiley), Tenoch Huerta (Lil Mago). Music by Marcelo Zarvos.

A Sundance sweetheart and the directing debut of Fukunaga, Sin Nombre weaves together two stories: Sayra (Gaitan) is on a journey to America with her father and uncle, whose lives (and wallets) are saved by gang-banger Willy (Flores) as he kills his gang’s leader in the process. As they traverse the countryside, Willy becomes Sayra’s guide to the North, while Sayra reminds Willy what it’s like to be human again. Fukunaga obviously did his research, as this briskly paced movie reveals a hauntingly believable portrait of gang violence and the poverty that forces people northward.

The film is beautifully shot, the script deep and layered, and the cast performs marvelously, especially Flores. His journey from gangland to redemption is very natural, and the friendship/romance between Willy and Sayra is subtle and poignant. The beastly, tribal nature of Willy’s gang is compellingly presented, and not a little unsettling. Oddly enough, in a gang whose leader has a mask of tattoos on his face, the scariest member is 12-year-old conscript Smiley, a boy who is seduced by the gang lifestyle. Although the movie revolves around illegal immigration, it doesn’t take a side, concerning itself less with the issue and more with the reasons people undertake such a dangerous quest. A very auspicious debut for newcomer Fukunaga.

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Jared Counts

Digital Technology Manager

Jared Counts moved to Houston in 1995, survived high school and college, and graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Houston with a degree in Communications (Media Production) and a minor in Film Studies. After being hired part-time at KUHF Radio in early 2003, he proceeded to bounce between...

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