Tag Archives: Luis Guzman

Cinema-Maniac: Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power (2005) Review

If it wasn’t for the Carlito’s Way collection set I would have never known about the existence of the prequel. Now a prequel in this case makes some sense exploring more Carlito Brigante life and diving deeper into how he became to be the man he went on to be is by no means a bad thing. Unfortunately this prequel does very little in terms of developing Carlito Brigante further than what was already established in the original Carlito’s Way.

Carlito’s Way: Rise To Power is set in the late 1960s, follows Carlito Brigante emerging as the heroin czar of Harlem. Much like the original its heavily driven by dialogue, but the narrative path taken is strictly linear. Following the routine of a standard crime film the script does not bring anything you haven’t seen before to the table; you have a young criminal rising to power, the wise and well spoken mentor, to the old and angry Italian wiseguy who doesn’t like young punks, romance with a street wise woman, and many more crime film tropes. Going as far as showing the outcome of the climax like it predecessor in the beginning of the film. Unoriginality only begins to scratch the surface of problems. Characters are entirely new without a single one created in attempt to bridging the two films. These new characters are written with good intentions, but the interactions between them is predictable. One new character upon being immediately introduce is utterly unlikable only to become a driving force for the film narrative. At no point is this character downfall ever tragic because by design making the film most unlikable character have emotional weight does not work. This same notion works with the rest of the film. You have a standard setup or plot device with a predictable outcome appearing superficial only to become a major part of the story serving it weakness. Story elements are often half baked, generic in execution, and empty of any risks. The film’s ending is easily the biggest drawback of the story. With this being a prequel it fails to show exactly how Carlito Brigante went to jail for a force happy ending. At no point does this prequel help pave the way for events of the original “Carlito’s Way”. By the time the climax comes you will truly feel just how unspectacular everything turned out to be.

Jay Hernandez who played Carlito does a decent job, but if you are looking for the intensity of Al Pacino, it won’t be there. Hernandez’s smoothly understated performance and the colorful presence of Mr. Van Peebles performances are better than the film itself. Sean Combs give sa moderate performance looking directly at the camera and delivery over the top lines to the best of his abilities. Luis Guzman (also in the original Carlito’s Way) was entertaining as the nutty hit-man. His casting in this film is a huge problem not only does he play a completely different character, but it adds confusion seeing an actor from the original breaking continuity and comes off as goofy that Carlito would meet two people who look and act exactly the same. Mtume Gant comes off as annoying, but that’s mostly to blame on the material. If anything Mtume Gant is quite good making his character as unlikable as possible. It’s a shame the material didn’t offer him any scene to show of his character good sides. Aside from poor writing is director Michael Bregman is too blame for this lifeless prequel. Wait why does that name sound familiar…he was a producer on “Carlito’s Way”. In that that case his directorial effort is awful. Every scene is just plainly shown without a personality or any kind style behind the camera. Michael Bregman simply films a scene and that’s it. No emotion, no eye for details, nothing that conveys the interest from Bregman. Everything is comes across more lifeless than the characters killed in this movie. Bregman might have worked on the original, but chose not to retain anything that worked in Brain De Palma film.

Carlito’s Way: Rise To Power fails as a standalone film for staying closely to the genre routine without an attempt to be different and as a prequel fail to connect the dot to its predecessor in any way. It fails in these two areas even more so taking into account that with a failure to expand upon a beloved film in any area. It’s just about as superficial as a prequel can get.

3/10

Cinema-Maniac: Carlito’s Way (1993) Review

Al Pacino and Brian De Palma collaboration brought one of the most iconic gangster to film with “Scarface”. A film that would define both of their careers making “Carlito’s Way” a unique enigma. While both are about man wanting to be better then he is both are the polar opposite in terms of tone, atmosphere, and pacing. In the end “Carlito’s Way” doesn’t surpass “Scarface”, but neither is it inferior in any noticeable way.

Carlito’s Way is about a Puerto Rican former convict, just released from prison, pledging to stay away from drugs and violence despite the pressure around him and lead on to a better life outside of N.Y.C.. Moving along at a slow pace “Carlito’s Way” tells an engrossing story. Allowing enough time to develop every major player that come into play in the story. Getting across every character history with each other, how each one lives, and interweaving each conflict into a single narrative that never becomes lost among many of its characters. Filled with a wide cast they never undermined our main character, but instead build upon Carlito’s character who doesn’t follow a traditional narrative. What we don’t see is the rise of Carlito to power, but instead we do see is the traditional fall. What makes this fall different is fully understanding Carlito’s world how he sees it and how he goes against the image given to him. Yes we know the outcome of Carlito’s life in the beginning of the film which in no way detracts from it story. It’s a quite a feat to make a thrilling climax when the outcome has already been shown. It seems the plot would have gotten everything right if it weren’t for stock characters. Sure the stock characters are well developed from the drug addicted best friend, crooked cops, a promising new young criminal, and many more unfortunately play out like a cliche. At its heart “Carlito’s Way” story fits B movie territory where’s it biggest strength lies using it towards its strength and not so much as a concealing weakness. It might be retreading familiar ground with stock characters helping you connect the dot faster than the plotline, but getting to the already known destination is an engaging character piece.

Director Brian De Palma acknowledges that “Carlito’s Way” is one giant slice of cheese with style. He pushes every motion and emotion to operatic proportions, ringing every ounce of drama. With its impeccable compositions, precise camera work, glacial tracking shots, baroque tone, sublime action sequences, and flamboyant acting, this is a film in love with its own form. Al Pacino’s performance as Carlito is the heart of the movie. Compelling, tough, and intelligent from years of dope dealing and soaking up the gang-land atmosphere around him. Framed by a jet black beard, Pacino spends the film always dressed in black, navigating his death dream like a fallen angel. Pacino spends the film alternating between a stance of fast-talking macho posturing and one of melancholic regret. He wears the face of a corpse, of defeat and acceptance, his flashes of confidence a hip old mask which doesn’t know if its going or staying. Then there’s Sean Penn as Kleinfeld, a scheming, vain little man who starts off seemingly as legitimate as a lawyer of criminals, but as we soon learn, he has slipped into a world that he has no place to belong in. Kleinfeld, with his balding, curly hair and nervy, cranked voice. However, when the viewer looks into his eyes, both terrified and ravenous, one can understand the pathway to excess that most conventional crime movies take for granted.

Carlito’s Way is a slow and engrossing character driven crime drama that will keep you watching even though you know the fate of the main character in the beginning of the film. Well directed and well acted Carlito’s Way will absorb you into its world and characters all the way through the end.

9/10