Well, as Dorothy Parker said, "If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to." Leguizamo is a major doper in the barrio who leads one gang among several rival gangs. He's unlettered, clever without being particularly smart. He dresses like everyone else in his Bronx neighborhood, like a gangsta. He has troubles of course, confronting rivals and the rest of the "Public Enemy" and "Little Caesar" business, but he's pretty happy living with his girl friend, Delilah Cotto, who is no glamorized Hollywood beauty but who has a great derrière and whom he impregnates, bringing joy to both their lives. But those lives are pretty crummy and the responsibilities demanding. Lequizamo has stashed away a lot of money in various places but all he has to do is start spending it and the brutal cops, the ones keeping an eye on him, will have him in the Crowbar Hotel before he can say writ of replevin or amicus curiae or cui bono? Then, through a marginal friend, he meets the suave young Peter Sarsgaard at a fabulous party, the kind where guests wear suits -- as opposed to Leguizamo's leather and jeans -- and when they shed those suits they step daintily naked into the Olympic-sized Jacuzzi and eat whipped cream from each others' bodies. Wow. Leguizamo would sure like a bite of that life style and in fact Sarsgaard's innocent face belies a certain moral terpitude. He's not above a little fast illegal money. He's an investment broker at a bank and claims a great deal of money can be made by insider trading and whatnot. "If you just want to get your feet wet, you could start with a million." And in fact Leguizamo does exactly that and doubles his money. Then Sarsgaard reveals that he has an absolutely sure thing but it requires a minimum of four million, most of which Leguizamo has to borrow. Sarsgaard warns him not to rush into things. Leguizamo should have taken his advice. By this time he's moved up in the world and occupies one of those sparse and extremely expensive apartments on either the upper West side or the upper East side. (I get them mixed up.) He neglects his old friends from the neighborhood. They're puzzled and hurt. His girl friend splits. Leguizamo gets mixed up with La Colombiana, Isabella Rossellini, in a hair do like a monk's cowl. She was my supporting player in Lynch's "Blue Velvet" and has aged beautifully in the intervening years, although not nearly as beautifully as I have. Anyone familiar with the genre will find it a familiar example of the genre. I refer you not just to "Scarface" and the earlier gangster movies. (This one has the fustian Leguizamo being fitted with an Armani suit, just as Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney were fitted with tuxedos.) The structure resembles any of Martin Scorcese's mob movies. Leguizamo's narration tells us how things work as the plot unfolds. Things don't work out well for Leguizamo. The reason they don't work out well is that he's betrayed his class. He doesn't turn into an aesthete like Dorian Gray and collect Nuremberg Eggs or anything. He just neglects his compañeros. In the Bronx you know who you can trust and who you can't. In Sarsgaard's world, you don't, because everything looks so placid. And to trust someone like Sarsgaard just because he seems to be extraordinarily rich and his face is so seductively believable and confident, is an error of gross proportions. Leguizamo is pretty good with his nervous, pinched face. Sarsgaard is at least as good as a well-dressed smoothie. Denise Richard exudes oestrus. Delilah Cotto is great simply because she's not a high-fashion mannequin but rather a young woman capable of passion and love, and attractive enough to garner glances in a supermarket. There's a lot of action. Too much of it is weak and derivative. Deaths and exploding bottles in slow motion. Even an AK-47 FIRING in slow motion. Queer wide-angle lenses that can turn some scenes into a Miramax presentation. That's pretty hoary stuff and the director would have been better off letting the colorful and powerful story carry itself in classic fashion.
Crime / Drama / Thriller
Crime / Drama / Thriller
A successful South Bronx drug dealer turns his back on his roots and gives money to a Wall Street broker to invest for him.
January 27, 2021