Strike One | 2015
At first light, just off shore, in the cobalt blue waters of the Pacific, a lone surfer, attorney Alan Hartford, 48, sits atop his surfboard scanning the day's first breaks before being overwhelmed by a hoard of surfers at this popular point break in the Palisades. Manny Gerardo, 37, ex-"Mureto" gang member, serves as the films narrator. After showering off at the beach Alan drives up the bluffs and heads east. Alan's journey, coupled with Manny's color commentator narrative, portrays the stark contrast of the pristine affluent Westside and the dilapidated downtrodden Eastside of Los Angeles.Upon crossing the LA river, the oppressive heat and blinding whiteout is inescapable as Juan Gerardo, 17, runs for his life with the LAPD hot on his heels. Not long after Juan alludes the police by ducking into his home, Juan's mother, sister Angie, 24, and niece Diana, 7, are engulfed in Juan's nightmare as the Gerardo residence is besieged by the LAPD. Juan reveals the series of events that lead to his arrest for driving the getaway car in a bank robbery his uncle Manny participated in to Sergeant Veritas, a 38 year old cop from the neighborhood, who grew up with Manny and has known Juan since childhood. Angie enlists the services of Alan after discovering Mr. Hartford's business card in Manny's wallet. Juan pleads his innocence explaining that he doesn't even have a driver's license and that his uncle Manny had simply taken him out for a driving lesson that morning.The story shifts to the week prior to Juan's arrest. It is the summer before Juan's senior year, the last phase of boyhood and prelude to the future. Without a father and raised by an overly sensitive, fragile mother, Juan's future will be shaped by the influences of his uncle Manny (ex-Muerto gang member who has fallen into a successful Hollywood acting career playing gang bangers since his release from prison), older sister Angie (a single mom, community college grad, working as an assistant at a law firm while enrolled in night school) and Veritas (LAPD officer from the neighborhood). Veritas and Manny have not spoken for 20 years as Veritas holds Manny responsible for taking his sister Eva to a "Los Muerto" party where she was killed in a drive by.At a neighborhood house party Juan and his best friends Norman and Jose hook up with an old pal Javier. In this neighborhood controlled by "Los Muerto", the number one gang in East LA, Javier proudly sports his new "Muerto" tattoo. Javier is surrounded by a harem of sexily clad teenage girls that seem more like women. The boys quickly see that "Muerto" affiliation is the road to coochie town. At the tattoo parlor Norman and Jose are ecstatic over their fresh "Muerto"Ink. Juan is next but gets cold feet and bolts for the door.Juan is deflated and visits Manny on the movie set, directly disobeying Angie who had retracted this privilege on account of Juan's sliding grade point average since Manny reappeared in the Gerardo household. The visit is cut short with the appearance two "Muerto" O.G. shot callers in Manny's trailer. Manny realizes he can't escape his past and rolls the dice by breaking an age old truce; visiting the "Coochie Coo", the neighborhood strip club, to seek the counsel of Veritas. The plan backfires and Veritas is now on the war path. Juan overhears a heated argument between Angie and Manny in which Manny agrees to withdraw from Juan's life. In an act of defiance Juan gets the base grave stone of "Los Muerto" tattooed on his arm.Jumping back to the present Alan explains that the police have concluded that the bank robbery was gang motivated. With the tattoo and F.I. (Field Identification) cards that link Juan to the "Muertos" the evidence seems insurmountable. Without Manny's testimony Alan's argument before the judge falls short. Alan unravels, revealing a personal addiction to both legal and illegal pharmaceuticals.The final flashback to the day of the robbery reveals Manny's vehicle wrapped around a telephone pole. Juan works his way around to the passenger door, opens it and discovers his uncle's lifeless body.As Juan boards the prison bus Manny narrates "What would your future look like if after your first strike they sent you to a graduate school for criminals."