Gun Hill Road
Esai Morales, Judy Reyes, and Harmony Santana star in a film by Rashaad Ernest Green that tackles themes mainstream movies generally avoid -- including how an ex-convict struggles to understand that his son is transgender.
The film takes the title "Gun Hill Road" from a section of the Bronx where different minorities live and, to an extent, mingle. It’s a rough and tumble sort of place. Enrique (Morales, formerly a star of the SyFy Channel series "Caprica," which featured an openly gay mobster married to another man) has a string of convictions behind him; he’s also haunted by a sexual trauma from his time behind bars. He’s a complex character, but prone to violence when he feels his manhood is threatened. Wife Angela (Reyes) and son Michael (Santana) are understandably a little nervous about Enrique’s homecoming.
Enrique’s efforts to connect with his son are undermined by his worries about how Michael’s gender identity will reflect on himself. As the film progresses, he starts to learn that being a father isn’t about protecting one’s own pride -- it’s about protecting your family. This is a lesson learned late in the game, though, and only after Enrique has attempted to "cure" Michael by forcing him into a sexual encounter with a prostitute.
The film makes it clear that imposing unwanted physical intimacy on sexual minorities in a misguided attempt to reform or "cure" them is nothing less, and nothing other, than a form of sexual assault. Green’s script and direction also explore other areas of minority life, including how Hispanics and African Americans interact on the sexual playing field (Michael has a black boyfriend).
The DVD release features only two special features, one of which is the film’s theatrical trailer. The other is an interview with Green, who talks about his own family’s influence on the film and the difficulty of finding financing for a movie about a gender identity.
Green’s hope is to spark conversations where they need to happen; "Gun Hill Road" will do that, but nothing about the film stands out otherwise. This DVD is not a must-add to most collections, but it’s most certainly worth a rental.