"A Remorseful Pleasure"
What You Need To Know:
ILLEGAL TENDER contains a mostly mixed pagan worldview with moderate Christian elements. There is one graphic sex scene with partial nudity. Other sexual content can be found amid club scenes, where women are sparingly dressed, jiving with no thoughts toward modesty or discretion. The content includes some alcohol use and cigarette smoking throughout. Just as icing on this cake of corruption, more than 50 profanities and obscenities occur. The only saving grace is some strong, overt Christian content in a Roman Catholic setting.
(Pa, CC, B, LLL, VVV, SSS, NN, A, DD, MM) Mostly mixed pagan worldview with moderate Christian elements in a Roman Catholic setting, including a point where the hero is inspired by an image of the Cross; over 50 obscenities and profanities; constant gun use, some graphic deaths, as well as bloody fist fights; sexual intercourse graphically depicted; side view of breasts and full back sides shown during sexual intercourse; six scenes involving the drinking of alcohol, but no drunkenness shown; no illegal drug use, but villains are drug dealers and there is constant smoking of tobacco; and, scenes involving revenge, blatantly disobedient children and parent failing to reprimand.
ILLEGAL TENDER opens with an interesting combination. By some unfortunate series of events, an initial scene reveals a beautifully structured montage of simultaneous life and death. The scene depicts a child being born at the moment of the father’s untimely murder. The dramatic nature of the scene truly sets the tone for movie’s sequence of events.
The father’s death leaves a single Latino mother to raise her two children. Ever since the father was shot, his enemies have not felt safe with the mother and family alive. The family has known nothing but running, ever since Wilson Jr. was born. Mother De Leon tries to keep the danger from being a concern of her children, and therefore has never talked about the subject of their father and the reason for constantly moving. The rising action brings the audience to date as Wilson Jr. has reached an age of maturity and demands to know what his mother has been keeping from him. This information invokes a determination to fight a battle that the De Leon family will never forget. The trail leads back to a gangster leader in Puerto Rico.
While ILLEGAL TENDER is a breathtaking, exciting adventure thriller, it is NOT a family movie. It is a movie with very inappropriate content, to say the least. The story is being setup within a drug world where women are scantily clothed and illustrated as symbols of sex. There is one graphic sex scene where full backsides of bodies are shown during sexual intercourse, as well as a side shot of the woman’s breasts. This particular scene of sexuality and nudity is used in flashback sequences later in the plot. Other sexual content can be found amid club scenes, where women are sparingly dressed, jiving with no thoughts toward modesty or discretion. Violence is a consistent element throughout ILLEGAL TENDER, which is arguably a gangster film. The movie contains lots of intentional murders, without any remorse or attention to the price of taking a life. There are six scenes involving alcohol use and pervasive smoking of cigarettes. As whipped cream on this sundae of corruption, the movie’s content is topped off with at least 50 profanities and obscenities.
If there is any hope for redemption for the content of the film, it would exist in the religious allusions intertwined. One example is when the mature Wilson Jr. performs a Catholic prayer over his food. Catholicism is a major part of Latino culture, and the filmmakers apparently felt this aspect of their characters’ lives important to express in the movie. The second and more symbolic allusion appears at a point in the movie where it seems Wilson Jr. has lost. He has just gotten beaten, and as his bloody face looks up from the ground, he sees a beautiful silhouette of a cross before him. This cross expresses the faith that he has in God, even in the low moments of the adventure. He may seem down, but God gives him the strength, through hope, to keep on fighting the purposeful fight.
Wanda de Jesus as the mother is a powerful force within this movie. Playing a widowed mother, she expresses great pain, yet power and grace through her character. She is so beautiful and youthful that her relationship with the Wilson Jr. character is nearly awkward, especially in terms of touch. That may be a slight distraction, but her ability to be, both a caring mother and strong heroine is more than impressive, which overshadows any second guessing of such a casting choice.