A cheaper Latino version of “Blow”, the latest tale of the drug world tries to show off the differences of two very separate regions within New York City and how one young ‘hot shot’ who has a tragic rise and fall with all the pre-requisite cliches common to these movies.
Unlike “Blow” or “Traffic” though, Director Franc Reyes isn’t exactly a dynamic filmmaker along Demme or Soderbergh lines so the result is more like one of those TV movies designed to cash in on a major movie by opening in or around the same date. Even TV movies though try some new inventive things, whereas this follows the oldest of rules including the most annoyingly omnipresent voiceover I think I’ve ever heard in a film, to cheap cliched elements (such as the giant ‘G’ medallion of his slain brother) and all done in a surprisingly cleaner way than you might expect.
Without question it seems John Leguizamo tries hard in this and takes the subject matter dead seriously but even he struggles with the weak material as well as handling the film’s biggest leap of logic – that a man whose survived and blossomed so well on the roughest steets around using only his smarts & wits would fall so fast and so easily for a con/pyramid scheme.
Even bored Central Park housewives wouldn’t go for the ruse. Upcoming spunk Peter Sarsgaard does a decent turn as the friend with dubious motives, whilst Denise Richards plays the limp material at the level it deserves. It’s a good laugh to see the great Isabella Rosselini as a Soprano like mob mistress with a strange hair style, but all have shown they can act so why in the hell are doing such limp material as this?
Ruben Blades’ annoyingly overdone score blares out and tries to hide the film’s many holes – and doesn’t succeed. The production and location usage is interesting if underwhelming, whilst the editing tries an almost Michael Bay style trick in an early gunfight before heading to more conventional territory. Sloppily handled and put together, “Empire” could’ve really explored its premise a lot more but for now what’s here has pretty much nothing to say. Also, watch out for some of the funniest ‘this is my big death scene’ acting you’ll see this side of student filmmaking.