“Flamin’ Hot” is a story we’ve seen several times before. I’ll admit that this is a new spin on the tale of a man working his way up from nothing with a hot new idea, but it’s a familiar story, nonetheless.
Jesse Garcia plays Richard Montañez, the man who pitches to Frito-Lay, owned by Pepsico, the newest idea for a snack. While watching, you’ll want some, so don’t forget to grab yourself a little bag before starting. Voiceover tells us every moment of Richard’s path to his creation and one of the best munchies out there. Do you love them as much as I do?
Anyway, Richard was a husband and father who had fallen on hard times. Racism followed him throughout his life, as a child and still today as an adult. There’s an uncomfortable scene where his young son asks what the term “wet back” means. He is so young and he has already been given that title.
Racism made getting a good-paying job difficult. Richard’s resume was constantly thrown away and he felt invisible to those who could hire him for a job he was more than qualified for. He tells us that the color of his skin held him back. If you’re always treated like a thief, you may as well become one. He had mouths to feed, so he got involved with the local gang.
It worked for a while, but he got straight when his wife Judy (Annie Gonzalez) insisted her family, and her children weren’t going to be living the life of criminals. Tony Romero (Bobby Soto) puts in a good word for Richard at Frito-Lay and Richard gets hired as a janitor. He’s told he’s lucky to be there and to just be happy with being at the bottom of the food chain.
Richard notices that the dark chips coming out of the conveyor belt were thrown away. He felt like those dark chips. Later in the film, there’s a scene where a white chip is removed from the red Flamin’ Hot Cheetos production line. It’s a slight acknowledgment of how people have always thrown away “the brown ones,” meaning people, obviously. The white Cheeto being cast aside directly reflects how things have changed. Why should color come into play as it does?
Richard becomes close with Clarence, played very well by Dennis Haysbert, who has worked at the plant for innumerable years. He’s happy to have an eager protégé like Richard because many people have moved up the ladder without endorsing Clarence (a savant at working on the machines). He’s the reason they’ve always been a flourishing plant and haven’t been shut down, but he’s never been considered for promotion.
Years have gone by and things are the same. One day, Richard sees a video by the CEO of Frito-Lay, a man of Italian heritage, Roger Enrico (Tony Shalhoub). His wife prepares him for a pitch meeting where he explains to Roger that they’re ignoring the entire Hispanic market. He assures him that the company wouldn’t have to close any more companies or trim any more fat if they’d take a chance on his suggestion of aiming toward a massive untapped market who likes their snacks to “Burn Good.”
He sends Enrico some samples of his spicy slurry. Not long after tasting it, the CEO visits the plant to meet the man who understands that the Mexican demographic, who puts Tapatio on everything, will save their company.
Eva Longoria’s directorial debut will do well. It’ll amuse the audience and put smiles on the faces of those who never knew this story. This snack wasn’t created in a boardroom. It was created by one of its customers, one of its employees and a gang of people willing to put their hearts and souls into something they believed in.
In the end, Longoria adds pictures and information about the real Richard Montañez and his wife, Judy, who is still by his side today.
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Directed by: Eva Longoria
Written by: Linda Yvette Chávez, Lewis Colick
Starring: Jesse Garcia, Annie Gonzalez, Dennis Haysbert, Emilio Rivera, Tony Shalhoub, Matt Walsh, Pepe Serna, Bobby Soto, Jimmy Gonzales, Brice Gonzalez, Vanessa Martinez, Fabian Alomar, Mario Ponce, Hunter Jones
Run Time: 1h 39m
Genres: Biography, Drama, History
Distributed by: HULU, Disney+