FILM: Latin Kings: A Street Gang Story
FILMMAKER: Jon Alpert
Reviewed by: Katy B. Jones
Filmmaker Jon Alpert takes a camera and follows King Tone, the “Inca” of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation in New York, a street gang. King Tone runs an organized, tightly knit group, holding regular congressional-like meetings where representatives from other Latin King districts gather to pay their respects and pledge their allegience. He preaches to his Kings and Queens that they should not shoot, and they should stay away from drugs. He takes his message of Puerto Rican pride to his heart, and delights in his family. He’s got a chance as a grassroots hero.
Unfortunately, the story ends unheroically. It’s easy to see why King Tone is a natural leader. He wants to be a person who does something really great with his life. He’s infectious, playful, heartfelt, organized, and an excellent fiery speaker. Unfortunately, he’s also unable to resist the temptations of drugs. When he’s finally locked behind bars, his world comes crashing to an end. Jon Alpert watches all of this unfold with an unflinching one-man band that doesn’t look away from the good, the brutal, or the bad. That the camerawork is somewhat uncreative is totally fine. This filmmaker earns his value by walking in a world few would dare. He earns the trust of his subjects, and obviously feels a great responsibility to paint the story fairly. There are no villains here.
Mr. Alpert also serves as our de facto narrator, peppering Tone with questions that the audience who doesn’t understand this world needs to know. He’s got balls, he’s got commitment, he’s got fairness, he’s got story, and there is definitely something at stake. For a low-budget film, it impressively dynamic. It’s rare that I watch a feature film all the way through and didn’t wish it was a short. This kept me in it. It was interesting, and I definitely walked in another world. It did lag a bit, and, as mentioned, the low-budget one-man band camera style can be a little wearing. All in all though, a good movie.
Three out of five cheers
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P.S. Among the many morality tales of this film – please make a special note of one lesson Tone learned the hard way. Don’t go cheating on your woman just before you get locked away, even if it might seem like a good idea at the time. Prison is real lonely when she takes your kids, smashes your stuff, and moves to Connecticut. None of the other girls come visit you later, and neither does she. Or at least not without a whole lotta work on your part.