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Film / American Me

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American Me is a 1992 biographical crime film. It is directed by Edward James Olmos and based on the real life Mexican-American gangster Montoya Santana and the foundation of the Mexican Mafia crime syndicate. Olmos played the lead role.

This film provides examples of:

  • American Title: Subversive. The film is about the rise of the Mexican Mafia in the US.
  • Child by Rape: It eventually is revealed that the main character Santana was conceived when his mother was raped by a sailor during the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots, in which US sailors on leave clashed with Hispanic residents of Los Angeles.
  • Death Glare: Santana (Edward James Olmos) pulls a pretty good Death Glare on his girlfriend.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Mexican Mafia punishes any infraction with death no matter how minor, including questioning an order or disagreeing with another brother, especially if they are of higher rank. One disturbing example is how the son of a Mexican drug lord is violently raped and killed in prison because the drug lord refused to hand over his empire to Santana during their meeting.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Santana may be a brutal gang leader, but he loves his mother, as she's always taken care of him even though he's the product of a gang rape against her by a bunch of racist sailors.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Santana is ultimately killed by his own men. He passionately embraces his death.
  • Downer Ending: Santana dies in prison while his little brother continues the cycle of violence he grew up in.
  • Going Native: Peg Leg isn't Mexican, but he is shown to be the most hardcore in following the code of the Mexican Mafia, which he helped create as a founding member.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Santana's strict law of punishing any slight among the Mexican Mafia, including questioning or disagreeing with another brother's actions with death comes back to haunt him. When he questions Peg Leg's ordered hit on a Black Gorilla Family location resulting in the death of many innocent people. When he disagreed with Peg Leg putting a hit on a young member because he was blamed for causing Santana to get arrested again and ruining their plans for the outside of prison. He is violently murdered by his own crew under Peg Leg's orders
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence: Santana's first time with a woman after he's released from prison is intercut with a brutal gang rape perpetrated on his orders against a rival mafioso's son in prison.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Santana has a member he was friends with killed because the man disagreed with having men sent to kill his friend on the outside who was with another crew. At the end of the film, Santana is killed for disagreeing with having one of his own members killed, and the contract was ordered by Peg Leg, his best friend and second in command.
  • Prison Changes People: Having been shaped so thoroughly by prison, Santana has difficulty adjusting to the outside world when he is released as an adult.
  • Prison Rape: Has at least two scenes portraying prison rape, including an especially disturbing one where the Mexican prison gang rapes the son of an Italian crime boss and one where the main character is raped in juvie hall. Thanks to Dawson Casting, though, the actors involved were over 18.
  • Rape and Revenge: During a stint in Juvie, Santana is raped by another boy under threat of being stabbed. Afterwards, he immediately retaliates against his rapist and kills him with his own knife. This earns Santana notoriety but also gets him convicted of murder and his sentence (initially for robbery) extended by years.
  • Rape as Drama: First, Santana's mother was raped by racist sailors. Then, in juvenile hall, Santana is raped by one of the boys.
  • Redherring: The drug lord Santana meets with outside of prison. He swears that if Santana does anything to his family after he refuses to give up his drug empire that he would pay a heavy price. Santana orders the drug lord's son to be raped and killed in prison afterwards. But Santana is killed not out of revenge from the father but by his own men for breaking one of the codes he helped create.
  • Sex Is Violence: Played for drama. Santana is released from prison for the first time in years. He meets a beautiful woman, whom he quickly falls in love with. When they make love for the first time, he can't reciprocate except by violently forcing himself on her. All the years that he's had to perform Prison Rape to survive in prison have given him a rather warped perspective on sexuality.
  • Sinister Shiv: A particularly brutal stabbing scene happens in the courtyard.
  • Tragic Villain: Santana is portrayed mostly as a product of his environment. He was the product of rape himself, became acquainted with youth gangs in his neighborhood, was sent to Juvie where he was raped, murdered his attacker only to be convicted of murder, and has had to remain the top dog ever since simply to survive.
  • Villain Protagonist: The main character Montoya Santana is a leading member of the Mexican Mafia.