“On the Downlow” (Image) is not your usual gay movie by any means. We do not think of thugs as being gay, especially not members of radical gangs. Here is a romantic and tragic film of love between two rival gang members of Southside Chicago. Perhaps the title s an unfamiliar term to you but “on the downlow” is a reference to street guys who are “straight” but have sex with men in secret.
Angel is a member of the Latin Kings but he has a secret lover named Isaac who belongs to a different gang. They meet in secret and no one knows of their relationship. Angel double crosses his own gang and Isaac, at that time, tries to get him to come into his own gang.
Tadeo Garcia has entered territory not yet explored with his direction of this film. He manages to show us first hand the life on the streets of gang heavy Chicago and his actors who are all first timers give excellent performers. He film, itself, is suspenseful and laden with twists and turns as well as gang brutality. This is not any easy film to watch but it is enlightening and has the heart and soul not found often in films of this sort. I did expect a great deal more violence at the end and if there is a fault to “On the Dowlow”, it is that the ending could have been stronger. I expected to see more deaths at the conclusion.
Similar to the classic Shakespearean “Romeo and Juliet”, it is the tale of two families (gangs) where a member of one family is in love with a member of the other family. The rest I will leave to you to discover. What is the most amazing thing about the film is that it was made as a student project and as such it is a bit uneven. I predict that the director will have a huge career if this film is any sign of things to come. This explosive story opens our eyes to things we knew nothing about and does so with power. Our two main characters live in a society where the decisions that they make and the paths they choose to take create a trap and a brutal end for them. Their community will not take to secrets and rules cannot be broken.
As a film that is ahead of its time and breaks down stereotypes this is a movie not to be missed. There is no love scene in the film just a kiss that says it all. Hat kiss which takes place in the raw of a neighborhood alley speaks legions of words and carries and conveys the emotions of the two young men. The fact that these two guys love “on the downlow” sets us up for the tragedy which follows them. When things go back, they go bad very quickly. I think what the film is really about is the danger inherent in keeping secrets and what can happen in a world which is dominated by gangs. The beauty of the film is the way it sends its thesis to the audience—quietly and beautifully. What a great way for Garcia to begin his movie career.