American Me

American Me

4.8 17

Cast: Edward James Olmos, William Forsythe, Pepe Serna, Danny De La Paz


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Edward J. Olmos made his directorial bow with the powerhouse crime saga American Me. Olmos stars as street-gang leader Santana, who during his 18 years in Folsom Prison rules over all the drug-and-murder activities behind bars. Upon his release, Santana goes back to his old neighborhood, intending to lead a peaceful, crime-free life. But his old gang buddies…  See more details below


Edward J. Olmos made his directorial bow with the powerhouse crime saga American Me. Olmos stars as street-gang leader Santana, who during his 18 years in Folsom Prison rules over all the drug-and-murder activities behind bars. Upon his release, Santana goes back to his old neighborhood, intending to lead a peaceful, crime-free life. But his old gang buddies force him back into his old habits. The omniprescene of the "Mexican Mafia" in the southwest is sufficient to make this film a daunting, demoralizing experience. Upon its release, American Me received a lot of press play due to the fact that Olmos shot his Folsom sequences on location, using actual prisoners as extras and bit players.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide
This searing drama, the directorial debut of star Edward James Olmos, is an ambitious fusion of crime epic à la The Godfather and social exposé. It's a tough balance to pull off, but American Me works because it maintains this agenda by balancing brutal realism with dramatic subtlety. As it charts the way the criminal justice system allows misguided kids to become hardened criminals, the film achieves an impressive sense of tragic grandeur without ever pulling its punches or giving in to cheap melodrama. That said, American Me isn't an easy film to warm up to for more than one reason. The first is its refusal to flinch from the ugly reality of its subject matter; though it is never dealt out in a glorified manner, American Me presents the savage violence of the drug trade with a gruesome, vivid sense of detail that will shock many people. The other reason is that it doesn't give the viewer an identification figure to latch on to; the central characters aren't presented in a way that inspires sympathy, and none of them ever experience an audience-friendly moment of redemption. These factors may limit the appeal of American Me, but it remains well worth the effort for the brave viewer because it is an extremely well-made film. Olmos reveals himself to be quite a stylist behind the camera, making deft use of cross-cutting to amplify the film's level of drama during key sequences and crafting a number of nerve-jangling set pieces along the way (an assassination during a prison film screening is a standout). He also gives a powerful yet controlled performance as Santana, and his work is skillfully supported by an array of distinguished supporting performances, most notably Evelina Fernandez as his ill-fated love interest and Danny De La Paz as a colleague whose faithfulness to his criminal organization comes with a heavy cost. To sum up, American Me is not for every viewer but anyone interested in a powerful, realistic crime drama will find it a rewarding experience.

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Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Universal Studios

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Edward James Olmos Santana Montoya
William Forsythe JD
Pepe Serna Mundo
Danny De La Paz Puppet
Evelina Fernandez Julie
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa El Japo
Daniel Villarreal Little Puppet
Sal Lopez Pedro
Daniel Haro Huero
Domingo Ambriz Pie Face
Vic Trevino Cheetah
Tom Bower Dornan (uncredited)
Panchito Gomez Young Santana
Richard Coca Young Mundo
Bob Morones Actor
Roberto Martin Marquez Acha
Dyana Ortelli Yolanda
Joe Aubel Tattoo Artist
Lance August Young Sailor
Cody Glenn Older Sailor
Don Pugsley Police Officer
Richard Lee-Sung Restaurant Owner
Ron Thompson Junkie
Grace Morley JD's Friend
Paul Bollen Doc
Rafael Robledo El Chucko
Michael Shaner Tony Scagnelli Jr.
Jaime Gomez Eddie
Jacob Vargas Paulito--Age 15
Rodney Rincon Shoe Salesman
Robert Pucci Bodyguard
Tony Giorgio Don Antonio Scagnelli
Manny Perry Arthur J.
Bennie Moore Ronnie Little
William Smith Deacon
Ken Medlock Cop
Rolando Molina Cop
Alex Brown Eddie Johnson
Abraham Verduzco Paulito (Age 7)
Robby Robinson Drug Thief

Technical Credits
Edward James Olmos Director,Producer
Lou Adler Producer
Joe Aubel Production Designer
Richard Candib Editor
Arthur Coburn Editor
Sean Daniel Producer
Brian Frankish Co-producer
Claude Gaudette Score Composer
Jim Halty Stunts
Dennis Lambert Score Composer
Floyd Mutrux Producer,Screenwriter
Desmond Nakano Screenwriter
Chuck Picerni Stunts
Martin Price Set Decoration/Design
Sylvia Vega-Vasquez Costumes/Costume Designer
Reynaldo Villalobos Cinematographer
Richard Yanez Production Designer
Irwin W. Young Producer
Robert M. Young Producer

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American Me 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie captures you from start to finish, so much that before you know it you'll be quoting lines from some it's heroes like Santana, JD, and Mundo. The way the movie follows Santana's entire life from boy to man is amazing, you actually feel like he is aging before your eyes!!! This is simply a must have!!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
you havent lived until u see this movie, shout out to h-town texas
Guest More than 1 year ago
es la mejor pelicula jamas que eh visto en mi vida te esprica la cruda realida lo que paso y esta pasando en las pintas de california.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Working in a prison in Nevada, i can tell you that this is the most realistic prison movie ever made.
Guest More than 1 year ago
if you feel lost, you need to see that you are really here. this is life for people that you know and love. dont close your eyes. it is life!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
damn well played and writed by Edward J. olmos. So vivid I gave it 5 stars. If there were only 100 stars more to give.
Guest More than 1 year ago
eye opening, shocking, with an anti gang style of story telling. recomended for all 15-19 mexican teens. the movie is real and scary but its life if you live in the barrio
Guest More than 1 year ago
itz 1 of da best gang movies ever made must see no lie
Guest More than 1 year ago
As anybody has ever been around a prison gang member, whether from the Mexicarma, La Nuestra Familia, the Black Guerrilla Family or the Aryan Brotherhood, and now the Nazi Low Riders, the old saying, "blood in, blood out," relates to all prison gangs and everything they do is very serious, unlike what we hear about these newcomers like MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang. Everybody knows that they are ruled by the foot soldiers in Pelican Bay of the Mexican Mafia. Edward James Olmos has directed the most accurate film about prison gangs and the ruthlessness and ultimately the futility in joining these criminals and fighting them. Even the most powerful man in the most powerful prison gangs is not immune to death from his own, as the movie shows in vicious detail. I know Mrs. Reagan, it would be a much better world if people "just said no!" but the world sadly doesn't work like that. If we are to win some "respect" in the war on drugs, which at times feels like a farce, the only way to win is to address it honestly and not simplistically just say "lock up." Once you are in the game of drugs and gang violence you cannot get loose unless you end up in prison, in a pine box, addicted for life, or turned snitch. Breathtaking film!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Everyone one from main stars to supporting actors shined in this movie about real life. Very gripping subject matter will keep you fastened to your seat and the screen. Is one of the most under-rated movies of all time. I never even seen it at movie theater, was recommended by friend for a weekend rental and was hooked at begining.Definitely a must own !!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
An incredible view from the inside of one of the most feared gangs in prison and on the streets. The acting is as goods as the movies reality and this movie is very real.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What an inspiring movie about the way an unfortunate prisoner finds himself in war among not only his surrondings, but among his own family! a must see film my hats off to this compelling, moving, movie.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This movie is the most realistic of prison movies I have seen in a long time not only does it show the life in prison to the extreme but the outside as well and the srtuggles that come with that freedom, I hope this movie is released on DVD soon I cant wait for the extras
Guest More than 1 year ago
This film needs to be put on DVD so that I can buy it, and put it into my DVD collection.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw this film on a lark, having been conditioned to see all prison movies as stereotypical and poorly made. But nothing else was playing and the movie poster looked interesting. Boy, was I in for a ride! This movie will shake you to the core and is at times very painful to watch. You really don't watch American Me, you experience it. It has multiple subplots and twists and turns. No bathroom breaks in this movie, you are glued to your seat but in certain scenes, your eyes will shift away. Worthy of an Oscar for best screen play, I am surprised that it was not a box office smash! A lot of folks slept on this one!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The movie Amercian Me was an excellent movie by Olmos. The main character ''Santana'' is sent to jail and starts to control all drug trade and murder in Folsom State Prison. This movie really only gives a glimpse of what mexican gang life is all about behind bars. I liked it because it shows a lot of what people don't see. It does give some extreme insights on what really happens. The movie goes from Santana being a kid to him being old and all his trials he endures with his two best friends ''J.D.'' and ''Mundo.'' And i liked that it shows betrayal and loyal and it gives you a good idea on who to trust.