Luis Valdez directed this film adaptation of his hit stage musical, which is loosely based on the 1940s Sleepy Lagoon murder trial that unfairly convicted several Mexican-American zoot suit gang members.
Except for the spirited musical numbers and an arresting performance by Edward James Olmos as the cynical conscience of gang member Daniel Valdez, the movie largely fails to bring the impact it had on stage.
It’s shot on a sound stage with a visible audience watching, which creates a barrier that makes it hard for the viewer to feel the anguish the characters go through.
The exaggerated, theatrical acting style also doesn’t help.
Edward James Olmos