Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Empire (2002) R - 4 Stars

I really like movies starring John Leguizamo, not because I think he's a great actor, but his movies are usually right up my alley. He does a real good job playing a powerful Latino drug dealer from the Bronx, trying to give up selling drugs in exchange for playing with the big boys on Wall Street. It seems the grass is not always greener on the other side when Leguizamo finds out the hard way he's been scammed. I think Leguizamo's personal commentary throughout the film, works really well. The critics didn't like this movie much but I for one, strongly disagree. Have we seen this type of movie before? - Yes. Is it fairly predictable in many ways? - Yes. Is it entertaining and one great seductive psychological thriller? - YES!

Victor Rosa (John Leguizamo) considers himself an entrepreneur / businessman, while making cash selling a heroin mixed drug cocktail, he's aptly named, "Empire." The money is excellent and has given Victor the power and respect of the neighborhood. Basically he's a good guy that doesn't try to screw people over. Life is good for Victor and he's just bought his fiancee Carmen (Delilah Cotto), an expensive gift of diamonds. But Victor yearns to take his street smart talent for making money, to a higher legitimate business so he can be proud of what he does.

Carmen, a Baruch College student, has a friend at school named Trish (Denise Richards), and as the two start becoming close, Trish invites Carmen, and her fiancee, to a fabulous party her boyfriend Jack Wimmer (Peter Sarsgaard), is throwing for the upper elite. Victor and Jack hit it off and as they talk shop, Jack invites Victor to join in on a "sure deal" investment. Victor is eager to get to the next financial stage of his life and easily comes up with the million that's needed to buy in. In no time, Jack produces results with the money and Victor is convinced he's found a way to go legit. But as Jack entices Victor into the next business venture, it's more money than even Victor has and he must turn to drug dealer La Columbiana (Isabella Rossellini), for a loan. You better know what you're doing getting yourself into a deal with La Columbiana, as she is the last person you want to double cross. Victor gets the money to Jack, only to learn the next morning, Jack has taking him to the cleaners and left town. Now Victor, confronted with a high price tag to repay, must track Jack down to settle the score.

Arenas Entertainment, Universal Pictures
Director: Franc Reyes
Writer: Franc Reyes
Producers: Daniel Bigel, Michael Mailer
I viewed 3/09

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