American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Even as the teenage girlfriend of a South Bronx drug dealer, Millie DeLeon is the investment adviser you'd want on your account. Without telling him, Millie invests his profits in Microsoft. This was in the late 1980s. "I only made one mistake," she tells her son years later. "I didn't buy enough."
What she bought, however, was enough to turn $2 million into a fortune, and as the story jumps forward 20 years Millie (Wanda DeJesus) is living in an elegant suburban home, and one of her sons, Wilson DeLeon Jr., is attending Danbury College, pulling down 4.0 grades and is in love with a student named Ana (Dania Ramirez). He also dotes on his kid brother Randy (Antonio Ortiz), who is by a different father, because Wilson DeLeon Sr. got gunned down in a mob grudge on the day he was born.
They lead a life both comfortable and dangerous, as Millie realizes in the supermarket one day when she is spotted by a hit woman from her past. In a panic, she races home, tells the boys to start packing because they're moving again and sets a revenge tragedy into motion.
"Illegal Tender" was written and directed by Franc. Reyes, who is fascinated by the zero degrees of separation between low and high finance. Reyes' first film was "Empire" (2002), about another young South Bronx kingpin fascinated by the lifestyle of a flashy Wall Street wonderkid. His protagonist this time comes closer to making an escape, but the bad guys from his mother's boyfriend's past have long memories, and more reasons than we think for wanting her and her family dead.