Empire | Chicago Reader

Empire

Watching John Leguizamo labor to keep this leaky vessel afloat, I was reminded of all those Hell's Kitchen melodramas James Cagney rescued in the early 30s, when Warners had him making six pictures a year. Leguizamo plays a high-rolling street dealer in the south Bronx who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a smooth-talking investment banker (Peter Sarsgaard) and moves out of the hood into a loft apartment, hoping to become a legitimate businessman. Written and directed by Franc. Reyes, who drew on his own tough childhood in the Bronx, and produced by Arenas Entertainment, “the first major Latino film label in Hollywood,” the movie makes some noise about family and the American dream, but in the end it fails to differentiate itself from the usual urban multiplex shoot-'em-up. It does, however, offer the spectacle of Isabella Rossellini as a Colombian drug lord, trying to navigate phrases like “shit going down.”

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