John Singleton latest production, “Illegal Tender” is perfect mindless popcorn fun. Sure it looks good and is entertaining as long as you don’t want it to make too much sense.
Young spoiled Wilson De Leon, Jr. has lived a pampered and privileged life. Zooming around town in his new car, sporting a fine young cutie and living in a plush home with his mother and brother, Wilson seems to have it all.
He gets more than he bargains for when he confronts his strong-willed mother, Millie (Wanda De Jesus) in search of information about his father’s history. Apparently on the day he was born, his father, a local legend, was gunned down by some drug dealers over an unpaid debt.
For over twenty years, she has been on the run moving her family from place to place trying to stay alive. Placing a pistol in her son’s hands, she looks him in the eye and says, “If you’re the man your father was, defend yourself.”
If he can’t man up, mama sure has his back. With a $10 million budget, Singleton and director Franc. Reyes put every dollar on the screen filling the film with heavy action scenes to offset the film’s flimsy story.
The script has several scenes that are laughable including one where two killers come to the house hunting for Wilson. While trying to hide, he must seek refuge while his loud, inquisitive girlfriend (Dania Ramirez) blows his cover. Featuring a weak, predictable script and a modest cast, the film’s true star is De Jesus who injects fire and passion into this rather stale tale.
Gonzales, who needed his persona from “Coach Carter” in this film, is miscast as the justice-avenging son who really never is quite believable in the film’s title role. De Jesus brings an sophisticated elegance to her passionate motherly portrayal. Other than her performance, there’s nothing tender about Singleton’s Lat-splotation flick.