Mark Reviews Movies

EMPIRE

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Franc. Reyes

Cast: John Leguizamo, Peter Sarsgaard, Delilah Cotto, Denise Richards, Vincent Laresca, Isabella Rossellini

MPAA Rating: R (for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content and some sexuality)

Running Time: 1:30

Release Date: 12/6/02


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Capsule review by Mark Dujsik

Writer/director Franc. Reyes' debut is a stylish urban noir with all the pieces present but that never really comes together. Empire establishes an interesting thesis: the criminal underworld and corporate business practices are comparable.  It starts off typically with an introduction to its world and the way things work within it, and just when it starts to become interesting, it returns to that world and forgets what it wants to say. There's also a major twist near the end of the movie that makes the entire theme irrelevant, but by that time, it has concerned itself with relatively trivial matters. The story focuses on Victor Rosa (John Leguizamo) who has spent too much time working in drugs and finds himself at an ethical crossroads. Through his girlfriend Carmen (Delilah Cotto), he meets Jack (Peter Sarsgaard), a hotshot stock broker who takes a liking to Victor and could be his ticket out of his current lifestyle. The movie has a lot of information, and most of it is revealed through first-person narration that may as well be third-person considering the little personal information we receive from it. None of this finds an emotional connection, and instead we watch it predictably unfold. Reyes does accomplish an atmospherically dreary environment in the midst of the plot, especially in the movie's moments of violence, and he also has the advantage of working with John Leguizamo and Peter Sarsgaard. Leguizamo plays off of the knowledge of the voice-over by not giving us too much in his performance and instead plays it basic and subtle, and Sarsgaard personifies a cool assuredness. By the end, though, the movie has lost its ambition and settles for the conventional.

Copyright 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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