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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Illegal Tender (review)

Can you say “overwrought,” boys and girls? I knew you could. Writer-director Franc. (yes, with a period) Reyes follows up on his equally histrionic mean-streets-of-the-Bronx gangster soap opera Empire, from 2002, with this tale of a young man, Wilson (the appealing Rick Gonzalez: Roll Bounce), out to settle the debts his father, a long-dead drug dealer, incurred before he even even born. Mom (Wanda De Jesus: Ghosts of Mars) has been in hiding, raising her kids in suburban obscurity since the murder of Wilson’s father, but now the chickens are coming home to roost… in the form of hired killers hunting down the family. Lots of gunplay is jammed up against over-the-top angst — it’s not enough that Wilson is leading a straight life, he must, of course, be an honors student with a sweet girlfriend and a golden path ahead of him — and none of it is played with enough self-awareness of how ridiculous it is. The wannabe-Scorsese solemnity is, in fact, what sinks the whole endeavor. It’s clear that Reyes has talent — he just needs to relax a bit and not take himself so seriously; a little bit of self-deprecating humor would have gone a long way here.

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MPAA: rated R for violence, language and some sexuality

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb

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