I may not know how to make a decent movie myself, but I can tell you one thing you don't do. Every time there's an emotional scene, don't blast a piece of music whose lyrics narrate the scene for the audience. This is director Franc Reyes's M.O. As an example, aspiring heroin dealer Vic Rosa (John Leguizamo) has a fight with his girlfriend, Carmen (Delilah Cotto). Naturally, they exchange that "I'm never going to see you again, am I?" look. After that, Reyes starts blasting some song whose lyrics go something like this:
She's leaving now. Oh, oh, oh.
And you're never gonna see her again.
Oh yeah, you've done her wrong.
And now she's gonna walk out that door.
Belting out this tune is a Latin singer, reinforcing that our characters are Latin and that these are hot Latin passions at play.
See, Vic breaks up with Carmen because he moves from the Bronx to a loft downtown and Carmen is mad because Vic is "leaving his peoples" (Carmen is college-educated, incidentally). Vic wants a better life for himself and he thinks he's going to get it by investing a bunch of money with his new best friend, Jack (Peter Sarsgaard). Fortunately, we know from the trailers that Jack is about to take all of Vic's money, which really destroys that whole element of "surprise" formerly thought to be important in telling a good story. Not only does Vic lose all his money, but loses a bunch of his drug-dealing boss's money too. Either he recovers that money or he's going to get offed. And who's this super-threatening drug-dealer? Why, it's Isabella Rosselini, in what is possibly the worst bit of casting since Joe Eszterhaus tried to hire Dame Edna to take over Sharon Stone's role in "Basic Instinct 2".
"Empire" also has a nice scene where Jack's girlfriend, Trish (Denise Richards), is about to give Vic a B.J. This happens to coincide with the exact moment Carmen decides to walk into Vic's apartment and rekindle their hot Latin passion. Too bad. Incidentally, whenever I see Denise Richards I tend to say the same thing Dustin Hoffman's father said in "The Graduate": plastics. Seriously, she looks like a blow-up doll that's been melted around a Victoria's Secret mannequin.
After Jack creates this incredibly complicated ruse to steal Vic's money (by the way, MacGruff the crime dog recommends that when you're planning to clean out some rube, you should try to pick a rube who's not so likely to hunt you down and kill you), Jack makes the crucial mistake of calling Vic from Miami and then letting his own mother know exactly where he is so she can tell Vic when he calls and asks. I try to let my own mother know exactly where I am when I'm on the run from murderous drug dealers. You gotta have a place where people can leave messages.
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