Screen Reviews
Flamin’ Hot

Flamin’ Hot

Searchlight Pictures

Directed by Eva Longoria

Starring Emilio Rivera, Tony Shalhoub, Dennis Haysbert, Matt Walsh

In Flamin’ Hot, Vacho Montañez (Emilio Rivera) lives somewhere in the L.A. metroplex, where he’s struggling to get by. Minimum wage jobs and little education left him with the options of starving or selling drugs to other unfortunates. His kids don’t have shoes or food, but his wife, Judy (Annie Gonzalez), keeps the faith. One day someone suggests he apply for a job at the Frito Lay plant that makes Doritos. Vacho can barely write, but he gets in as a floor sweeper and inveigles his way into a friendship with the plant engineer (Dennis Haysbert ), who teaches him how the machinery operates.

Ambition will only get you so far, but one day Vacho asks the question, “Why are there no spicy hot corn snacks?” Mexicans love hot dishes, perhaps Americans will as well. It’s an excellent question, and he and his family set out to create a hot spice powder to put on the corn chips. After all, dipping corn chips in hot sauce was everywhere in his universe.

The rest is history. He got a batch of these chips made, kickstarted a marketing campaign in the Mexican community, and made his fortune while he kept the factory open. He essentially invented marketing to the Spanish community.

Cue the mariachis.

Flamin’ Hot isn’t a biopic, and it’s not a documentary, but it is an engaging tale of an American success story. Montañez is earnest and likable, his wife supportive, and his kids cute. Even the jerks at the factory that look down on him have a quirky charm. They certainly are jerks but they are at least entertaining jerks. The Plant Engineer is a good teacher, and once you convince him you are willing to learn, he’s on your side. And even the drug dealers aren’t drastically evil. OK, they are evil, but in a cinematically entertaining way.

Odd facts about the snack food business pop up here and there, and I doubt many of us ever consider HOW a Dorito is manufactured. As this is a dramatized documentary, it may not get a full theatrical release, but I encourage you to look for it on the popular streaming services. The story is tight, the cast excellent, and the message is never heavy handed.

You might even consider munching a bag of “Flamin’ Hot” Doritos while you watch.

Florida Film Festival


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