Three Latino felons on the run invade the home of a prosperous Latino insurance executive, who must reconnect with his own violent past to save his family.
Pretty 15-year-old Estella, innocently socializing with friends at a local fast-food restaurant, is also unaware that she has attracted some ominous attention.
That evening, the family reassembles, sharing the news of the day, chattering and joking around. But outside as darkness falls, TITO VALDEZ stands at the back window of Dan's comfortable home, peering in at Lucia and Estella as they help their mother serve dinner.
Tito has a problem: All his life, people have shunned him. They say he's twisted. Even now, his brother MARIO VALDEZ and his friend ASH BELTRAN look down on him, though it was Tito who murdered the jail's laundry truck driver and facilitated the escape. Look at Mr. Has-It-Made, Tito thinks with bitter envy, watching Dan at his table.
Tito laughs to himself as he notices a screen awry in a bedroom window, and he enters with surgical ease and precision. He glides like a serpent through the house whlie the family, unawares, socializes and snacks. He opens the front door like a host in his manor for his co-conspirators. In a flash, the blinds are drawn. Dan's home is now in the hands of three fugitive felons.
Estella's terrified shriek is stopped before it starts by the threat of a drawn knife. Her phone is wrenched out of her hands. After agonizing moments the family is corralled into the living room and their phones are disabled.
The family are now prisoners in their own home. At gunpoint and knifepoint, the thugs confiscate or disable communication devices.
Dan, ibn shock, battles his first impulse to hurl himself at the three felons. They would kill him without hesitation, leaving his wife and daughters defenseless. He realizes he has to bide his time, use his brains, and reconnect with the tough, angry young man he once was.
Tito defers to Mario and to Ash --- the brains of the trio. The bank robbery had been Ash's idea, and he also masterminded the escape, though Tito had needlessly murdered the laundry truck driver, raising the stakes. Now, Ash must somehow get them all to Mexico.
In the meantime, the felons tell the family, they will be hostages. Dan will withdraw cash for them later that night, but first they will enjoy all the comforts of home, including romance with the two vulnerable girls.
Whoever harms my family, I will die killing you, Dan tells them. They mock him and laugh.
A friend of Dan stops by with his wife for a beer. The couple is welcomed by Dan into the house and the wife is raped and killed by Tito. The husband is shot too but is not dead.
As the thugs eat hsi food and drink his liquor, Dan suddenly flashes back on an incident he has tried to forget, an act of violence he committed when a teenager that ended in the death of another boy in a street fight.
Given a second chance, Dan had promised the judge that he would never lift his hand in anger to another person, but now Dan relives the rage and fury that have always been a part of him.
He realizes that the thugs are not a monolith: While Ash and Mario are good friends, Mario's brother Tito is a burden. Dan realizes that he can sow discord among them, particularly working on Ash, who seems to have a conscience, and goading Tito to show his brutality and stupidity.
How did you ever link up with a loser like him? Dan asks Ash of Tito at one point. This triggers Tito's rage, which Ash has to quell. Dan tells about his own delinquent youth, pretending to sympathize with Ash, mocking Tito, and further sowing discord. Mario is torn between his friendship for Ash and his guilt toward a brother who is a constant loser.
After Tito --- whois now drunk --- terrorizes Estalla, an argument breaks out between Tito and his brother Mario. But Dan realizes that he has to make a desperate play or Tito wll hurt his daughter.
Dan catches Mario unaware and manages to get his gun and shoot Tito in the leg before he is disarmed and pistol-whipped by Ash and Mario.
Tito's femoral artery is severed by the bullet, and he is rapidly bleeding out. Ash tells Dan's wife Anna (a nurse) to save him or he and Mario will just kill them all.
Anna stops the bleeding but Tito is now in very bad shape and unable to travel. Mario tells Ash that they should just leave right now.
You see? says Dan to Ash, Mario doesnt even care about his own brother. You can both get out now and leave Tito with us. He'll get medical care, and you'll be free of him.
But Ash has become smitten with Estella. Desptie her terror, Estella, who is something of a rebel, is attracted to Ash too, and she realizes that Ash is protecting her and her sister.
Anna takes it upon herself to spike Mario's guacamole with some powerful sleeping pills she keeps for herself. She watches as Mario eats; only after he has finished the snack does she let Dan know what she has done. They sit and watch and wait.
Mario suddenly becomes dizzy and his speech is slurred. He tries to make himself vomit but passes out.
Now Ash is suddenly by himself. He confronts the family who are begging him to leave and let them call the police.
But Ash is not ready to leave alone. He says he will not leave unless Estella comes with him. She agrees, as her mother sobs and Dan begs her not to go.
I will save my parents and my sister by leaving with him, Estella insists. I know Ash won't hurt me.
Ash ties up Dan, Anna, and Lucia so securely it will be hours before they can get loose. Estalla watches him do this as her mother begs her to reconsider and begs Ash to leave them now.
At last, Ash and Estella leave. The action follows them as they drive toward San Diego and talk about themselves. When they pull over at a rest stop for a break, they kiss and make love,
As they approach San Diego, Ash realizes that he has to let Estella go. He can't bring her with him to Mexico. This is all the time together they wil ever have. She tells him that if things had been different, she could love him too.
I won't betray you Estella tells him as they pull into San Diego. Ash lets Estella out at a phone store and drives away. As he pulls away, we do not know his fate, but it is certainly bleak.
Estella, freed, stands before the busy phone store and watches Ash drive away. As the camera pulls back, she becomes just another pretty girl in the crowded street.
A young Antonio Banderas
I wrote the feature film, Murder in Fashion, about the killing of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. The film played at theatres and festivals and was reviewed in the NY Times: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/22/movies/22murder.html?_r=0
I collaborated with producer Don Murphy (Transformers, Natural Born Killers) on the script "Fast Fade" on the life of tragic film noir actress Barbra Payton.