First drawn to On the Downlow for purely erotic means, many gay men hope to see two very attractive and masculine Latino men dating secretly in Chicago’s gang underground. But the allure of sexual fantasies fulfilled in a feature length film is quickly superseded by an enthralling and genuine portrayal of daily life. Hailing from rival gangs, Angel and Isaac form an unlikely relationship after first meeting on an elevated train. Certain that they were destined to be together, Isaac convinces his gang, the 2-6‘s, to induct Angel as their newest member. But Angel and Isaac fail to mention that Angel already pledges for the Latin Kings.
Keeping their intimate relationship and gang membership a secret proves impossible. During a particularly distressing scene, Isaac’s mother discovers that he is a member of the 2-6’s after accidentally grabbing his pistol from under his clothing,. Later, the head of the 2-6’s, Reaper, learns that Angel is a former member of the Latin Kings. Feeling betrayed by both Angel and Isaac, Reaper instructs Isaac to clean up his mess. Here we see Isaac entering his church seeking advice. Should he obey Reaper, or should he follow his heart? Isaac’s face shows his consternation and confusion, capturing the raw emotion that flows throughout the film. The film’s utter realism captivates its audience; this marks the film’s greatest asset. Like most gay-themed films, the production value is amateur and the budget low, but On the Downlow overcomes these impediments with natural acting, genuine dialogue, and an honest plot. Tadeo Garcia presented an excellent directorial debut, and hopefully he will continue to expand his oeuvre.
Guy Stridsigne 10/29/11