Director and screenwriter Byran Ramirez’s new flick, Mission Park, had quite the odds stacked against it. With a budget of only $4 million and no big-name Hollywood star other than a supporting role by Vivica A. Fox, its chances at box office success were slim from the start. Notwithstanding, the action-packed film is an admirable one when you consider its unique story plot and casting demographic. The film follows four childhood buddies—Bobby, Julian, Jason and Derek—who struggle to escape the trappings of the mean streets of San Antonio, TX.

The entire cast is Hispanic (with the exception being Fox and Julian, played Will Rothhaar, who is White), a rare casting choice that is both risky and laudable. The film’s opening scene—a tragic incident where they are involved in an amateur shooting and robbery as youngsters—foretells the looming dangers that follow them into adulthood. When Bobby (Jeremy Ray Valdez) and Julian, whom Bobby’s dad took in after his parents overdosed on drugs, graduate from school, they leave town for four years to secretly become federal agents. Jason (Walter Perez) and Derek (Joseph Julian Soria), the rebels of the group, are left behind to take on a life on the streets. Fresh out of the academy, Bobby is put on an assignment to go undercover and shadow his former best friends, while Julian is stationed at headquarters as the brains of the operation.

Expectedly, the line between personal and business gets blurred as Bobby discovers that not only did Jason start dating his ex-girlfriend when he left town, but that he’s become a big shot drug lord who the FBI is determined to take down. Taking advantage of Jason’s trust, Bobby pretends to be down on his luck and agrees to become one of his henchmen. But when Julian decides to leave base and join in on the undercover action, things begin to heat up. The scandalous storyline, gun action and cycle of betrayals make for a great action film, however, Mission Park is not met without its imminent flaws.

For one, Ramirez manages to cultivate a compelling script but doesn’t do a great job at fully developing the story. The movement between time often feels rushed and choppy, which ultimately does him a great disservice at the end of the film where the relationships between the four friends reaches its climactic end. Additionally, he relies too heavily on Bobby’s narration in the film where it would have better served him to show more than tell. And while Ramirez snags Vivica A. Fox as a his only high-profile actor in the film, her role is written in such a blasé manner that she brought no true value to the film other than her name. In fact, Fox only appears in one scene where she assigns Bobby and Julian their posts, in which she seems to overcompensate her acting for her lacking screen time.

Considering Ramirez’s lack of film experience, Mission Park is quite an ambitious undertaking. It probably won’t garner much praise from critics or industry award panels, but it was certainly a decent cinematic effort. —Gerren Keith Gaynor (@MRGERRENALIST)

XXL Rating: M