Rico Rodriguez‘s big break came playing Sofia Vergara’s son Manny on Modern Family back in 2009. Since then we’ve all been waiting patiently for network TV’s most lovable pudgy preteen to break into the Hollywood big time. His recent role voicing Cuco in the ambitious Mexican-American animated film El Americano was certainly a step in the right direction, but Rico was still missing that meaty live-action lead role to catapult his career onto the big screen. But fear not – the upcoming independent feature Endgame just might be what we’ve been waiting for.
Directed by Carmen Marron, Endgame features Rodriguez as a Brownsville, TX teen name José, who struggles for recognition in his own family as his football star older brother steals the spotlight. José has followed in the footsteps of his chess champion grandfather and joined his high school’s ragtag chess team under the tutelage of an inspirational coach named Mr. Alvarado. Against a backdrop of family difficulty, it will be up to José to beat the odds and bring his underdog school to chess glory.
Naturally, all the elements are firmly in place for an inspirational tale about triumphing over adversity and finding yourself along the way. And no, it’s not exactly Raging Bull, but it certainly fits in line with other uplifting Latino-centric films that have been taking theaters of late (think Spare Parts). Better yet, let’s call it Friday Night Lights, but with chess. The trailer suggests a straightforward, slightly rough-around-the-edges style along with a good deal of emotional syrup to get those tear ducts lubed and ready to go, but Rodriguez shows some flashes of dramatic brilliance as he ventures out of his comedy comfort zone into heavier dramatic territory.
The supporting cast also includes Latino stalwarts like Efren Ramírez (Napoleon Dynamite), Ivonne Coll (Jane the Virgin), and Justina Machado (Six Feet Under), so we can rest assured we’re not in the presence of dramatic lightweights with this one. We can’t be sure that Endgame will actually land Rico Rodriguez on the A-list, but at the very least we can consider it another important step in a still young and promising career — and directed by a Latina to boot.
Endgame opens at the AMC Burbank Town Center 6 on September 25, 2015. The 7 p.m. screening will include a Q&A with the director and cast.