The All-American Gang War

Crips and Bloods: Made in America asks a complicated question: how did L.A.'s notoriously bloody gang war begin and what's fueling it today?

Director and co-writer Stacy Peralta, who previously gave us the adrenalized surfing documentary Riding Giants, can't leave his liberal talking points aside long enough to give audiences any real answers.

Instead, he blames hateful/ignorant/bigoted America at every turn. Meanwhile, the thugs are excused from even microscopic blame for their killings.

It's a neat trick, but it's a deeply dishonest one. And didn't anyone realize the film, in limited release across the country, is coming out during the age of Obama?

It's all a shame, since the subject matter cries out for a credible documentary. The lives being lost in the City of Angels could use an honest voice to at least point survivors in the right direction.

Crips and Bloods begins in the late 1950s/early 1960s, a time when entrenched racism meant young blacks couldn't enter the Boy Scouts, job opportunities were few, and bigoted housing legislation ensured they remained segregated from cozy white neighborhoods.

Some blacks decided to make their own version of the Boy Scouts, although these groups tended to involve fisticuffs, not merit badges.

"In those days, we gave an appointment for an ass whupping," one former group member wistfully recalls.

So far, Peralta is on sound footing, and he makes a persuasive case that all of the aforementioned played a role in the 1965 Watts riots.

Once peace was restored, the black power movement resumed in earnest. And that, we're told, is why we have Crips and Bloods stalking California till this very day.

Huh?

The documentary doesn't even try to tie the two cultural movements together. How a violent revolution against oppression became an excuse for blacks to kill other blacks with abandon isn't even marginally sketched out.

We do hear from a black survivor from the '60s, who argues something akin to the fact that the oppressor, aka "the Man," made blacks begin oppressing each other.