Carlito’s Way – Rise to Power (2005)

by | Oct 18, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Carlito’s Way – Rise to Power (2005)

Starring:  Jay Hernandez, Mario Van Peebles, Luis Guzman, Sean Combs
Studio:  Universal/ Rogue Pictures
Video:  1.85:1 Widescreen Enhanced
Audio:  DTS 5.1, DD 5.1
Extras:  Previews (Band Camp; Unleashed; E Ring TV Show;
Battlestar Gallactica TV Show—new version; The Ice Harvest; Land of the
Dead); Deleted Scenes (5); Gag Reel (6); Carlito’s Brothers In Crime (5
min); Bringing The ‘Hood To Life (8 min); Trailer; Set Tour with Mario
Van Peebles (3 min); Making Of Documentary (12 min)
Length:  100 minutes
Rating:  *** (if you can put the original Carlito’s Way out of your mind), ** (if you can’t)

This film was adapted from one of two books written by Edwin Torres
based on his experience in Harlem in the 1960s.  They chronicle
the life of Carlito Brigante and his humble beginnings dealing drugs,
running a big operation, his later life and struggles after prison, and
finally to his attempt to flee it all.  In 1993 the later chapter
in Brigante’s life was portrayed, so Rise to Power is the prequel and
will inevitably be compared to that film (Carlito’s Way).  The
earlier film is quite a piece of work, partly due to the star power
involved (Al Pacino, Sean Penn), but also due to excellent drama and
edge-of–your-seat anticipation in the way that only Brian De Palma can
manage.  Producer Martin Bregman is responsible for the gangster
classic Scarface also starring Al Pacino.  With that kind of
history it is only natural to expect a lot from this film.  Those
that do will be somewhat disappointed.  The fact that Luis Guzman
(who played another character in the older film) appears as a different
character is a little off-putting.  The lack of big name actors
and the feel of the stylized picture harkens back to an older film—a
crime/gangster/blaxploitation film of the 70s.  This will be new
and exciting to some, but to others it feel like a B- or made-for-TV
movie.  All in all, the film was entertaining, but stretched
believability in parts, came off as corny, was unnecessarily violent,
or just lacked originality.

The plot centers around the heroin trade of the time.  Each
group—the Puerto Ricans, the Italians, and the African-Americans were
divided both geographically and by association.  The three main
characters come together in mutual criminal interest and form a
brotherly bond to exploit the city and make serious money.  As
Carlito becomes a prominent figure in the community he must deal with
all the trappings of his new found success.  His personal
difficulties are almost too much to bear (and live through) much like
in the earlier film. As the group’s relationship becomes strained they
must decide who deserves their loyalty.  The ending mirrors what
the ending of the earlier film would have been if a Hollywood happy
ending was tacked on.

The various featurettes on the film help to give the viewer how much
care the production staff took in scouting locations and attempting to
make the film (that was shot in Harlem) look like Harlem many years
ago.  Some might think that Jay Hernandez was miscast for the role
of Carlito, but the blending of good looks, vulnerability, and style
works better than you might expect.  Sean Combs is another who
seems to be an odd choice, but he works surprisingly well in the
role—overly dramatic, but in the way that makes the character come to
life.  In the end you’ll have to throw off any ideas about what
this film should be (in relation to Carlito’s Way) and just try to
enjoy it.

-Brian Bloom
 

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