American Me


Generally favorable reviews - based on 11 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 11
  2. Negative: 2 out of 11

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Critic Reviews

  1. 88
    The movie was mostly shot on two difficult locations: The streets of East L.A., and inside Folsom Prison. It knows these worlds. The language, the clothes, the attitudes, are all shown with the understated conviction of a director who is sure of his material.
  2. 88
    Gut-wrenching, brutal, and powerful, American Me is not enjoyable in the conventional sense, but nevertheless stands out as one of the year's most impressive purely dramatic offerings.
  3. The Hollywood Reporter
    Reviewed by: Kirk Honeycutt
    In American Me, Edward James Olmos has achieved several important goals, but one outweighs the rest: he has made a film that will scare the hell out of any inner-city youth not already lost to the hopelessness of gangs, drugs and prison. [9 Mar 1992]
  4. American Me is crafted with heart and conviction and intelligence. It demands no less of its audience. It insists that there are no quick fixes, but that solutions are of the utmost urgency. It demonstrates how the capacity for change resides within each individual.
  5. 75
    Olmos is unsparing in depicting the dark side of human behavior. His in-your-face style stresses the urgency of a situation most of us choose to ignore. Though powerful, the film is sometimes preachy; there's a sense that information is being disseminated instead of dramatized. But it's hard to believe anyone will remain unmoved by American Me or its final shattering image of human desolation.
  6. Apart from some softening of the extreme violence (through manipulations on the sound track) and some fancy intercutting, this is every bit as unpleasant as Olmos can make it, but occasionally edifying as well.
  7. 70
    The criminal life is portrayed with all the glamour of a mugshot in American Me, a powerful indictment of the cycle of violence bred by the prisons and street culture.
  8. An ambitious drama about gang warfare and the culture of violence, American Me is nothing if not earnest. Unfortunately, this doesn't mean it's a particularly successful film; for every bluntly powerful moment, there's another that's crude and obvious, sometimes excruciatingly so.
  9. But Mr. Olmos's direction, from a screenplay by Floyd Mutrux and Desmond Nakano, is dark, slow and solemn, so much so that it diverts energy from the film's fundamental frankness. Violent as it is, American Me is seldom dramatic enough to bring its material to life.
  10. The Globe and Mail (Toronto)
    Reviewed by: Jay Scott
    American Me is a graphic and honest effort that, unfortunately, becomes a catalogue of other films on similar subjects. Its depiction of prison life is much too slow, too long, too repetitive and too familiar. [13 Mar 1992, p. C3]
  11. Washington Post
    Reviewed by: Desson Howe
    This solo project by first-time producer/director Edward James Olmos makes itself out to be hard-hitting, social commentary. But it's too longwinded and cliched to deserve that description. [13 Mar 1992, p. N47]
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 4 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 0 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 2 out of 2
  1. Jun 10, 2014
    American Me: 3/10: In all fairness I have to admit I was expecting more of a gang picture (albeit a serious one) with Mexican overtones ratherAmerican Me: 3/10: In all fairness I have to admit I was expecting more of a gang picture (albeit a serious one) with Mexican overtones rather than a straightforward prison drama.

    American Me is a straightforward prison drama.

    Nobody in this film emotes and pass the K-Y jelly cause there is more guy on guy action in this movie than in the men's room at a Sex in the City wrap party. Add in the bathroom/drug smuggling scenes and you may be squirming in your seat for more reasons than a slow pace.

    In addition a lot of older actors can play characters in their twenties. Even those that have obvious hairline issues (see the later Porky's movies) seem to pull it off. Edward James Olmos is one man who should never even try. He looks like he was born fifty. He also plays the lead with the charisma of a sullen rock.

    In addition to the miscasting and sodomy American Me suffers from serious script issues. It simply takes at face value the characters contention that they are king of the world. They are not. It is one thing for the characters themselves to be misguided (as they are most certainly are) but the movie itself seems not to realize what big losers these guys are. Sure they are king of the cellblock. Hurrah, that's like being voted carny of the month.

    A good first 45 minutes or so quickly melts into underacted pathos (Nobody emotes in this movie, cause they are all tough guys see.) and misguided plot twists (the whole taking on the mob bit was horribly done). The movie just keeps getting worse and worse.

    Oh and Olmos's character writes poetry. Really bad rhyming poetry. Yup poetry and anal sex, American Me is one makeover away from its own Bravo series.
    Full Review »
  2. Apr 2, 2014
    At first it was impacting to me, but now I've seen far more better documentaries, and the acting is not good either, I t was a good try butAt first it was impacting to me, but now I've seen far more better documentaries, and the acting is not good either, I t was a good try but I'll say that I found this movie totally unnecessary. Full Review »