Bill Benenson, the producer of "Boulevard Nights," is supposed to have started out wanting to make a documentary about life in the barrios of East L.A. Somehow he got sidetracked and ended up with this gang movie, which is optimistically described by the filmmakers as "a story of love and loyalty set against the turbulent background of a Mexican-American coummunity."

He should have stuck with his original plan.Director Michael Pressman does show some skill at portraying barrio life, but his sensitivity is almost totally obscured byt he constnat stream of violence running through the move.

The stock characters are all here: the good boy who toils in the car shop with the dream of someday owning his own shop, the bad boy who's really a good kid but falls in with the wrong crowd. Naturally he gts in the end.

The writing, trite at best, is at times preposterous. "Raymond," the wife yells at her wild-eyed husband as he loads his gun preparatory to hunting down his mother's killer, "you're gonna yet yourself killed if you don't stop acting so stubborn."

There are positive aspects. The movie is skillfully, at times beautifuly, potograped. Danny De La Paz is convincing as Chuco, the gang leader who dies avenging his mother's death. And Marta Du Boid gives an affecting performance as Shady, the upwardly mobile girl from the projects who doesn't quite fit in the swankly offie where she works.

In the end, through, the scenes you remember are the low-key vignettes of barrio life. Chuco in his hairnet, nervously ironing his white T-shirt over and over as he gets ready for anight of cruising. Raymond and Chuco at their jobs, stapling crushed velvet into cars' interiors. Their handsome, black-haried mother, waiting in front of her house with her pail as the van from the maid company stops to pick her up.

Maybe Benenson will make that documentary someday.