Flamin’ Hot is the incredible real-life story of Richard Montanez, a janitor who became one of PepsiCo’s topmost executives. Although not authentic and true to life, the movie summarizes Richard’s rise from rags to riches. Eva Longoria marks her first feature directorial venture with a familiar ease of gulping this down without hiccups. Such is the nature of Richard’s accounts that the appeal is quite natural and universal. Even then, Longoria misses a trick by over-simplifying her storytelling and not getting past the rudimentary characterizations of race, class, and the actual true story to diminish its impact.

Richard Montanez is born into a poor family with eight other siblings. Somehow, his family works through their tough conditions, but such was the state of race relations in America when Richard was growing up that he had to become part of a gang to survive. That is the keyword in his story until he gets a job at a Frito-Lay factory as a janitor. Some semblance of stability flows through his family. But Richard isn’t content with just being a janitor all his life. The Reagan regime brought dark days for America’s economy. For years, Richard jostled with the same job as others around him got laid off. 

Finally, he took it upon himself to change his fortunes. His vision for creating a culturally unique flavor for PepisCo’s “bland -tos” chips bore the test of hardships, hierarchies, and a lot of torturous uncertainty. But he eventually got there, and that is what this film celebrates. 

On the issue, there have been various reports of contradictions between Richard’s narration in print media and what investigators found while going through Frito-Lay records. It is not entirely clear what the exact truth is, but Flamin’ Hot moves further away from it for cinematic convenience. Jessie Garcia plays Richard in the movie and does a very satisfactory job with what he is given. He isn’t allowed to dig deep and get his hooks into Richard’s character to bring out the direness of his situation and the fierceness in his motivations. 

A still from Flamin' Hot (2023).
A still from Flamin’ Hot (2023).

Lewis Colick and Linda Yvette Chávez, who have written the screenplay based on Montanez’s book, take a lot of things at face value. Although they get the essence of the story right, they aren’t able to channel its grit and heart. There is way too much melodramatic rhythm to the scenes that just seems contrived and filler-like content. Nothing about the writing makes Richard’s story stand out.

The extra oomph that was needed to elevate this biographical work is dearly missing. The dialogues have words you have listened to a thousand times before in similarly-minded films. It’s not able to instantly grab your attention or hold it with the same dramatic effect as expected in the uniqueness of a person’s life.

Longoria does them no favors by molly-coddling the storytelling and relinquishing the creativity that might have existed on paper. Her execution is too straightforward and obvious, with no realism or underlying tension. Everything in Flamin’ Hot moves with a vanilla flavor and a predictable pace. There are hardly any contradictions, conflicts, or anything that leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

You smile all the way, but at some point, those facial muscles just get too tired and bored. The movie isn’t able to provide an experience beyond the story itself, and that is disappointing. Also, the creative choice of characterizing the cinematic universe with stereotypes relating to the Chicana community diminishes the value and meaningfulness of Richard’s story.

The treatment from almost all aspects is lacking, except the acting. As mentioned, Garcia leads the cast quite well. Even with his technical disadvantages, he rallies to impress and live up to expectations. Annie Gonzalez, who played Judy, Richard’s wife, is a great companion for him on the screen. Their chemistry and the family’s unity and drive are the souls of Flamin’ Hot and definitely worthy. That phase of the narration will be most well-liked by the larger viewer base. Tony Shalhoub and Dennis Haysbert also play important roles and bring their hallmark styles to the portrayals. There could have been so much more extracted from them, but Longoria’s inexperience has an adverse effect. 

Flamin’ Hot is squarely bland and without taste. The serviceable seriousness with which this project has been conceived and executed is a big testament to why corporations like Disney+ are failing. Beyond the faces that you see on the screen, nothing else seems to make any sense or show signs of effort. You are better off skipping this one.

Read More: Everything Coming to Hulu In June 2023

Flamin’ Hot (2023) Movie Links – IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes
Flamin’ Hot (2023) Movie Cast – Jesse Garcia, Annie Gonzalez, Emilio Rivera
Where to watch Flamin' Hot

Similar Posts