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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Empire (review)

An extraordinary assemblage of filmmaking no-nos congeals into a movie that’s not as bad as it deserves to be, but one nowhere near entertaining, either. First-time writer/director Franc Reyes’s tale of a South Bronx drug dealer (John Leguizamo: Ice Age) who wants out is all clichéd plot twists, slo-mo gunplay, and a nonstop, distancing voiceover by Leguizamo’s Victor Rosa that makes you feel as if you’re getting the story thirdhand. Rosa heads downtown to do a legit deal with Wall Street wunderkind Jack Wimmer (Peter Sarsgaard: The Salton Sea, apparently attempting to channel John Malkovich), leading to an inevitable clash with his homies, who accuse him of forgetting where he comes from — and Reyes gives Rosa a boot in the ass for trying to better himself, too. Reyes offers no new insight into a well-explored criminal underworld, though he does give us a rare misstep from Isabella Rossellini (Roger Dodger), vamping it up as a South American drug lord. Ay carumba.


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MPAA: rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and some sexuality

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb
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