Robert Fontaine directs, scripts and acts in this drama concerning the hate crime murder of five Hispanic migrant workers.
Actor Robert Fontaine bites off a bit more than he can chew in his latest feature which he wrote, directed, co-edited, executive produced and stars in. Although Mi America is an undeniably ambitious portrait of an upstate New York town wracked by a horrific hate crime, its dramatic elements fail to rise to the level of its socio-political themes. Running over two hours, the film feels both bloated and undeveloped.
Fontaine–a veteran of several soap operas including Santa Barbara, General Hospital and As the World Turns—plays the lead role of Detective Rolando Ramirez. His latest assignment is to investigate the crime shown early in the film, in which five Hispanic migrant workers are lured to an empty warehouse and brutally beaten before presumably being killed.
It’s an obvious hate crime, an apparently not uncommon occurrence in the fictional waterfront city of Braxton (the run-down environs of Newburgh, NY provide appropriately gritty atmosphere).
Ramirez’s ensuing investigation, taking place over many months, leads him down a rabbit hole of shady characters including a businessman (Michael Brainard) whose racist tendencies are exacerbated by his losing a contract to a minority-owned company. The dogged detective also finds his personal and professional lives uncomfortably intersecting when his teenage daughter is taunted with racial epithets at school.
The scenario is rife with dramatic possibilities, and the actor/filmmaker seems intent on exploiting every one of them. The profusion of subplots, characters and flashbacks prove more confusing and wearisome than illuminating and, even worse, the proceedings are tedious despite the incendiary subject matter.
Fontaine earns points for his understated, effective performance, and he ably creates the requisite ominous atmosphere. But Mi America, which further hammers home its themes by delivering a series of frightening real-life hate crime statistics just before the end credits, ultimately feels like an attenuated Law and Order episode that’s more intent on sending an important message than providing compelling drama.