Based on the true life experiences of poet Jimmy Santiago Baca, the film focuses on half-brothers Paco and Cruz, and their bi-racial cousin Miklo. It opens in 1972, as the three are members of an East L.A. gang known as the "Vatos Locos", and the story focuses on how a violent crime and the influence of narcotics alter their lives. Miklo is incarcerated and sent to San Quentin, where he makes a "home" for himself. Cruz becomes an exceptional artist, but a heroin addiction overcomes him with tragic results. Paco becomes a cop and an enemy to his "carnal", Miklo.
- Written by Anonymous
Taylor Hackford directed this urgent melodrama about the realities of street crime, gangs, and prison life among the Chicanos of East Los Angeles. Miklo (Damian Chapa), Paco (Benjamin Bratt) and Cruz (Jesse Borrego) are three friends who are living in the East Los Angeles of 1972 as it is torn apart by violence. When the gang violence hits the three friends, they are affected by their participation in the bitter violence in different ways. Cruz, an artist, becomes crippled, and he sinks deeply into drug addiction. Paco, an accessory to murder, joins the military to avoid jail time, leading to a spot on the LAPD. Miklo, the kid with the gun, is sent to jail, where he slowly rises up in the ranks of La Onda, the San Quentin Latino gang.