Carlito's Way: Rise to Power (2005)
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Review Date: October 03, 2005
Director: Michael Bregman
Writer: Michael Bregman
Producers: Martin Bregman
Jay Hernandez as Carlito
Mario Van Peebles as Earl
Sean Combs as Hollywood Nicky
This is supposed to be the so-called “prequel” to the great crime film that was CARLITO’S WAY, but honestly, other than the lead character, almost no one from that movie is even mentioned here, and it doesn’t even explain how this film’s ending, ties into that one’s beginning. What it does feature is a young Puerto-Rican punk getting into a drug partnership with an Eye-Talian guy and a black guy in New York, and more “drug deal” type things happening, none of which are interesting, entertaining or even mildly amusing.
Before I begin my review, I want to say that I’m scoring this film at least one mark lower than I normally might, simply because of the fact that they denigrated the title of one of the cooler crime flicks from the past two decades, using it simply for the purposes of some bullshit “prequel” scheme in order to cash in on the whole straight-to-DVD moolah train that the studios are riding these days. A big “F” and a big “U” to everyone involved in that doing that. It’s almost as bad as Jimmy Fallon and Gerty running out on the field during the Red Sox’s 2004 World Series victory, just to film a couple of shots for their piece-of-shit rom-com. Now that I got that out of the way, allow me to break down all of the things that make this film so obviously a “straight-to-video” feature, but also a piece of shit in itself. Slap together a bunch of C-rate actors, a D-rate script and dialogue, and characters, story and involvement that rank right up there with an episode of “Spongebob Squarepants”, and you pretty much get what they tossed onto the vapid table that is this horrible, horrible movie. I was pretty sure things were gonna be bad when one of the first pieces of dialogue that I was thrown was “We hit Harlem like Frasier hit Ali.” Oh, I get it…that’s supposed to make me feel like we’re in the 70s, right? The screenplay felt like it was written by a 20-year old white kid who “imagined” how people of ethnicity spoke back in the day.

Not that the film would give us any indication that it actually took place during the 70s (other than Peebles’ hair), with everything but some embarrassingly tacky “archival” B&W pictures opening up the film, and everything else, looking pretty basic. The film’s star, Jay Hernandez, is also way out of his league in attempting to fit into the younger shoes of the great Al Pacino, who tore the joint up in the original CARLITO. He looks pretty, but can’t act tough and his hair was just way too “clean” in every scene—it was almost like the make-up person would come in after every shot and make sure that not one hair was out of place. Unfortunately for us, Hernandez even tries to relive Pacino’s accent in the film’s narration, but only ends up reminding us of how much greater Al, and the other film were. In fact, if you remember the “poolroom scene” from that movie, rent it again, watch only those 5 minutes and you’ll have been more entertained than the entire 85 minutes of poop that I had to sit through in order to write this review. What else sucks about this movie? So much, I’m sure that I can’t even fit it all in here, but there’s a throwaway romance that never sparks, there’s a subplot involving an idiotic brother that sticks out like a sore dick, there’s another subplot involving an even more idiotic, annoying and arrogant brother that, not only, sticks out like another sore penis, but ultimately ends up being a catalyst for much of the film’s “plot”, which really sucks because the guy is entirely unlikable and not worth more than 3 seconds on-screen (and we have to care that the plot is being revolved around this mook?).

Add to that, the great Luis Guzman showing up as a supposed scary hitman who ends up over-acting and cutting up in jokes (and didn’t he play a different character in the original…c’man?!?!), and Diddy showing up in about 4 whole scenes – which seem to have taken 1-2 days to film – most likely in his own garb, attempting to look cool, act tough and pretending like he owns the world. In other words…PLAYING HIMSELF!! Granted, the filmmaker was smart enough to toss a couple of tit-shots into the mix, just to keep us awake from time to time, as well as two or three “kills” (I wouldn’t go as far as to call them “gun-fights”, since people basically just pull out their guns, shoot the other guys and it’s over…zero suspense, action or emotional involvement), and Hernandez’s pleather rip-off jackets look almost as cool as Pacino’s classic from the original, but in the end, the film stinks on ice (and even in warmer weather), and despite playing it “serious” the whole way, ends on some kind of “joke”. Har-dee-har-har…unfortunately for anyone renting this flick…the joke is on you! And by the way, once you introduce the film’s main trio as a Puerto-Rican guy, an Italian guy and a black guy, you don’t need to remind us of this fact every ten minutes. We got it…it’s an unusual combination, but somehow they’re able to look past their different cultures, bla-bla-bla. Did a 12-year old write this shit, or a studio shill looking to steal money out of your pocket!? I’m gonna stop now. So much more. Can’t stop writing. Movie so bad. And did anyone else notice how this “1st time director’s” last name, Bregman, is the same as the legendary producer of this film, Bregman – who also, incidentally, produced the original flick? Look into it, fellas…maybe we can sue for terribly misused nepotism.

Note: Credit where credit is due, the actor who played Rocco, Michael Kelly, was pretty damn good. Put this guy in a good movie and see where he goes. Reminded me of a young Cazale.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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