Picks and Pans Review: Bound by Honor

updated 05/24/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/24/1993 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Damian Chapa, Jesse Borrego, Benjamin Bratt

While this ethnic drama about three Mexican-American cousins from East Los Angeles clearly aspires to turn Boyz in the 'Hood into Muchachoz en la 'Cindad, it soon evolves into an unhip, run-of-the-cell-block gangster-prison melodrama.

Chapa is the central character, a mixed Anglo-Chicano teenager torn between his Latino pride and the privileges his fair skin and relatively unaccented English accord him. After an intergang battle, he ends up taking the rap for his pals and does time in San Quentin, where he falls into a clash among Latino, black and while-supremacist prison cliques.

Neither Chapa nor Bratt, a Vincent Spano type playing the cousin who becomes a cop, musters much charisma or empathy-arousing emotion. And in the tradition of prison movies, there are no vital female roles. Director Taylor Hackford's most surprising achievement is having avoided predictable casting: no Jimmy Smits, no Edward James Olmos, no Maria Con-chita Alonso. (R)

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