Str. John Leguizamo, Isabella Rosellini, Peter Sarsgaard
Wrt. / Dir. Franc Reyes
Opens December 6th
Power. Money. Drugs. Hair.
you have any interest in seeing Empire, then for the love
of God, don't watch the trailer. For some reason the idiot
producers have decided to give away the movie's plot twist,
which is the only thing that makes the movie interesting.
If you haven't seen the trailer then here's a little synopsis:
Victor (Leguizamo) is the self-described "young, good-looking
and Latin," drug lord of a neighborhood in the south
Bronx. He's got it all: an expensive car, a hot girl, and
a drug supplier with the sexiest accent in the history of
cinema (Rosellini). So, what happens when he decides to
cut clean and go straight with his new best friend and investment
banker Jack (Sarsgaard)? Nothing much good obviously. I
mean, these are the drug-loving aught years, where every
TV show has at least one pot-head, alcoholic or speed freak;
remember the good old days of the Very Special Episodes
of Growing Pains, or the critically renowned "Greg
Smokes a Cigarette" Brady Bunch? Come on! We need a
That 70's Show where the gang confronts Fez on his abuse
of Whippits and Amyl Nitrate? And what about a certain New
York gubernatorial candidate winning %13 of the vote by
claiming he'll make cocaine legal? There are dark times
ahead for the straight and narrow, mark my words. But, indeed,
do not see the trailer to Empire
or maybe you should
see the trailer and then just skip the movie.
It's nice to see Leguizamo playing a dramatic lead for
once. After that horrible fiasco with Spawn I feared that
his career might be over, kind of like what happened with
Pee-Wee Herman in the porno theater, only Leguizamo's fall
was much less dignified. Let that be a lesson to you all
-- if anyone ever asks you to dress up as a 600 pound demonic
The acting is good all around. Leguizamo and Peter Sarsgaard
specifically are great together. There is chemistry between
these two very different, but ultimately similar characters,
which the actors play with wonderfully. The rest of the
cast is nothing stellar, although my darling Isabella fiercely
contends with Leticia Bredice (Nine Queens) for the Bitchiest
The style of writing and the dialouge is extremely real.
This can often times prove deadly when one's actors then
attempt to actually act. Any feigned emotion when juxtaposed
with completely true-to-life dialogue comes across as hammy
and trite. With Empire, however there is very little feigning.
The actors, for the most part throw their words around the
screen without much pause as to what they are saying. Lines
are mumbled over, cut short and generally ignored. Aside
from Leguizamo's running narrative, there are no monologues,
or philosophical diatribes. This, I think, is pretty cool.
While the movie delves into two very different worlds that
most of us know nothing about (the seedy coke-driven gang
war and the posh high-stakes investment nightmare) the movie
stays grounded with its dialogue and its characters and
feels very real and very possible.
There are a lot of cool, nifty, things about Empire. But
there is one glaring fault: It's predictable and boring
and there is next to no originality. It feels as though
every little facet of Empire has been used up and dried
out by countless numbers of movies through the ages. It
presents two very interesting worlds, but then hardly scratches
the surface of either, instead letting the audience ride
up on top-- relying on stereotype and cliche to provide
the details we're all looking for.
Ultimately I can't help but feel like the wrong movie was
made. There are so many interesting stories that want to
come out of Victor's empire up in the Bronx, but as soon
as he is transplanted to Soho everything loses it's magic.
The drug world from the point of view of a drug lord sounds
pretty damn cool, but the movie starts just as Victor is
trying to get out of it. What we do see only makes us beg
for more. The investment banking world is, apparently, nothing
more than the drug world with a glitzy backdrop added. That's
an interesting idea, but why not explore it a little? There
were tons of avenues that Empire could have taken, but the
one it chose is trite and uninteresting.
Hair: Three bottles of Vidal Sassoon
While it may be a little anachronistic-- making you wonder
if the movie is taking place in the 1980's, Isabella Rossellini's
hair is a thing of glory. It looks like there's a well-groomed
baby cousin It sitting atop her fabulous Italian head.
Boyz: Three Mambo Mouths
Leguizamo is still damn beautiful. He's getting a little
gut in his thirties, but it's one of those cute guts, that
look like it'd be fun to bounce on. I actually enjoyed the
movie just because of that. How lame am I?
Style: Three cans of Bed Head
It's a very slick movie. It looks good, moves quickly, has
well paced action, and cleans itself up nicely when it's
done. A lot of people are going to like this movie solely
because of how slick it is.
Overall: One-and-a-Half of the Hippest Hipsters
There's an awful lot going for this movie. But some pretty
crucial things piled up against it.