Zoot Suit

Watch Zoot Suit

"An American original."
  • R
  • 1981
  • 1 hr 43 min
  • 6.7  (1,323)

Zoot Suit is a 1981 musical drama directed by Luis Valdez. Set in Los Angeles during World War II, the film explores the issue of racial discrimination faced by Mexican Americans through the story of a group of young Chicanos (Mexican Americans) who were arrested and charged with the murder of a young man in Sleepy Lagoon. The film opens with a group of young Chicanos involved in gang activity, known as pachucos who are arrested and put on trial for murder. To the characters and audience's surprise, the trial is not a fair one, as the judge and jury are biased against the Chicano community. The song and dance numbers present throughout the movie add a unique dimension to the story and ultimately become a way of expressing the cultural identity and resistance of the Chicano community.

Henry Reyna (played by Daniel Valdez) is the protagonist of Zoot Suit. He is a young Chicano who is the leader of a pachuco gang. Henry is arrested along with other members of his group, including his brother Rudy (played by Wilfredo Salazar). Henry is wrongfully accused of murder, and he and his friends are sent to jail. While in jail, Henry begins to understand the consequences of his actions and the importance of fighting for justice.

Edward James Olmos plays the role of El Pachuco, the spirit of rebellion and the embodiment of the Chicano voice. He represents the past, present, and future of the Chicano community and speaks directly to Henry, guiding him through his difficult journey. El Pachuco’s role is much more than just a narrator; Olmos skillfully portrays his character with a charming demeanor, fascinating dance moves and a style all his own.

Charles Aidman and Virginia Paris play the roles of prosecutor and defense attorney respectively. While both are skilled actors and work well within the context of the film, their positions highlight the political and social bias of the time period. Throughout the course of the trial, the Chicano defendants are consistently painted as inferior and guilty until proven innocent.

The movie highlights the racial tension that exists within the city during the war period. Like many others, the Chicano community is deemed suspicious and targeted for their ethnicity. The film portrays the racism that exists within the judicial system and how it works to silence and suppress communities of colour.

Zoot Suit was ahead of its time, being one of the first Hollywood movies that was directed, written, and acted by Chicanos. The film was first created as a play by Luis Valdez, with its first performance in 1978. It was a critical success and attracted the attention of film producers. Without losing any of the play's authenticity or political commentary, the film adaptation preserves the vibrant colours and the stage productions lively musical numbers. Ultimately, the use of the Zoot Suit itself becomes an emblem of Chicano pride and resistance to prejudice.

In conclusion, Zoot Suit is a powerful portrayal of the cultural and political struggles faced by the Chicano community in Los Angeles during World War II. The film uses lively musical numbers and a remarkable cast of actors to bring to light the issues of racial profiling, discrimination, and injustice within the American judicial system. The film is a testament to the resilience, strength, and pride of the Chicano community and a powerful story that will undoubtedly stay with you long after the credits roll.

Zoot Suit is a 1981 drama with a runtime of 1 hour and 43 minutes. It has received mostly positive reviews from critics and viewers, who have given it an IMDb score of 6.7.

Zoot Suit
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 43 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.7  (1,323)