"Director Luis Valdez has done an outstanding job in bringing us this highly entertaining and informative picture of life in LA in the 1940's. The music, song, dance, and story in itself will make you cry, laugh and want to swing along with the film. Edward James Olmos demonstrates his many talents as he sings, dances, and plays El Pachuco, trying to convince the hero (Daniel Valdez) to use violence rather than intelligence to overcome prejudice by "Anglos" toward the Latin culture. Great theatrical props and settings along with an in-show audience makes you feel truly part of the whole production. Loved it!"
The real thing
R. Bagula | 06/01/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I worked with la gangs and lived in that world for five years and the fatalism, the clear rules and the self destructive Edward Almos over soul is so true to, "the way". Its like through art they reveal reality. Its as if gang movies that try to be real end up being false, while this art "pretense" reveals the truth. If you want to get "it" watch this. Then watch American Me."
Luis Valdez is the Mexican American Shakespeare!
R. Bagula | Lakeside, Ca United States | 03/18/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is California history come to life. It is a Mexican American story told by the master. Has has all the elements of a classic: tragedy, love and good music!"
GreatMovieCriticRobertfromUS | philadelphia | 06/29/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this on the Independent Film many years ago, very good film, revolves around Gangs but gangs in the 1940's.Also a film about Latinos (my people) and the problems they face in the inner city.It's much better than those terrible soap opera's in Mexico, this film is a musical but it's also a drama focusing on different Hispanic characters. Edward James Olmos career is synomonus with these type of films
most notable "American Me", "Stand and Deliver", "My family"
a great actor who is part of the real population.Despite the great performances the film does suffer from
its story, you know several hot headed characters with their
attitude and lifestyles are only headed downhill and their
fates are predetermined.Still "Zoot Suit" is a good film."
"Zoot Suit. All it is for you guys is another way to say Mex
Trevor Willsmer | London, England | 06/17/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Zoot Suit takes a highly stylised approach to racism in the 40s, in particular the infamous 1942 Sleepy Lagoon murder trial that saw a group of Zoot Suited `Chicanos' railroaded for a murder in one of the most outrageously unfair trials in American history. But rather than go for a grim courtroom drama, Luis Valdez' film uses it as the basis for a musical fantasy about racism and machismo dominated by Edward James Olmos' El Pachuco, a fantasy figure acting as both Greek Chorus and instigator, with attitude and bad advice to spare. The director's brother Daniel Valdez does double-duty as self-destructive leading man and composer of many the songs, and does a good job of both (sadly the soundtrack only made it to LP). There are some liberties with the truth - names have been changed and the 22 accused are whittled down to a fictionalized four for dramatic convenience - although the most surreal and unbelievable aspects of the trial are sadly accurate: the defendants weren't allowed clean clothes or haircuts to ensure that they looked more `criminal,' had to stand whenever their name was mentioned and the prosecution really did produce a witness from the LA Sheriff's Office who gave testimony that Mexicans were predisposed to commit murder because of their `Aztec heritage' of human sacrifice.
There's no attempt to hide that this is unashamedly a filmed play and there are problems with the approach: the sporadic cutaways to the theatre audience are more distraction than anything else and by filming on the original theatre sets the film occasionally hits problems with the cinematography - the vivid colors are excellent, but the tendency to lose focus on anyone not standing center-stage (something that happens to Charles Aidman in particular) is irritatingly sloppy. Also, it has to be said, Olmos' performance makes no concessions to the more intimate nature of film and at times comes across as stilted and too mannered for the big screen. Yet despite the niggles, it works more often than not. Not for all tastes, certainly, but this `Chicano Chicago' certainly deserves to be better known.
Universal's DVD is bare-bones - only the atrocious trailer in badly bleached-out black-and-white is included as an extra - but at least boasts a good widescreen transfer."