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Empire (2002)

Cast: John Leguizamo, Peter Sarsgaard, Denise Richards, more...
Director: Franc Reyes
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Universal Studios
Genre: Crime, Quest, Revenge
Running Time: 100 min.
Languages: English, Spanish, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
    see additional details...

A man who has made good in an illegal business discovers going straight is a more complicated matter than he imagined in this urban drama. Victor Rosa (John Leguizamo) is a drug dealer who has made a small fortune selling a heroin-based drug cocktail he's concocted called "Empire." Victor doesn't see himself as a dope pusher; instead, he considers himself an entrepreneur and a businessman who is simply making the most of the economic opportunities presented to him in the ghetto. Through his girlfriend Carmen (Delilah Cotto), Victor makes the acquaintance of Jack Wimmer (Peter Sarsgaard), an upscale investment banker who admires Victor's business savvy and street smarts. Victor is interested in getting out of drug dealing and into a legitimate business, and when Jack offers Victor the chance to buy into a new business, Victor eagerly accepts and makes a good profit in the deal. After this, Victor is all the more enthusiastic when Jack gives him the opportunity to invest in a much bigger project; the price, however, is more than Victor can afford, and he has to borrow from another high-stakes drug dealer, La Columbiana (Isabella Rossellini) in order to make the nut. It isn't long before Victor learns La Columbiana is not a good person to be in debt to -- and that Jack may not be all he imagined him to be. Empire marked the directorial debut of dancer and choreographer Franc Reyes; the supporting cast includes Denise Richards, Sonia Braga, Ruben Blades, and rapper Fat Joe. ~ Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

GreenCine Member Reviews

Another one to throw on the "Wasted Opportunites" slagheap. by dropjohnson March 26, 2005 - 5:15 PM PST
1 out of 2 members found this review helpful
The first hour and fifteen minutes of Empire reminded me a great deal of Menace II Society, which blatantly ripped-off Scorecese's Goodfellas, teleporting the story from the Italian working class clime of Queens to the Black inner-city neighborhood of Watts. They say the good ones borrow while the great ones steal and, while I don't consider the Hughes brothers to be great fimmakers, Menace has become a minor classic. Empire steals much in the same vein from Goodfellas (owing a debt as well to Scarface, though Empire is far more subdued) transposing the story onto a predominately Latino neighborhood in the South Bronx, but sadly to a lesser result.

The main trouble arises in the last two reels when Empire veers away from its social context into the land of predictable twists and turns. Anyone who has seen the trailer knows exactly what to expect and even if you've not you're likely to have seen the setup so many times in a dozen other movies that you will be a couple steps ahead of the film regardless. John Leguizamo gives the best performance I have seen to date (I am, however, not a big fan and have skipped more than one of his films) while the rest of the characters are relegated to one dimmension (perhaps a dimmension and a half in a few instances. But, come on, Denise Richards portraying a skank? That's daring and new). The real problem is that the screenplay has no desire to deal with Jack (played by the wonderful Peter Sarsgaard) as a character but instead treats him first as a dubious and hollow symbol and second as mere plot convenience. That there are elephantine plot holes probably goes without saying. What's left when the dust settles is a slightly over-stylized and under-realized exercise in plot mechanics that proves a completely forgettable experience.

Building Leguizamo's empire... by Emomovieluver April 9, 2003 - 1:16 PM PDT
2 out of 3 members found this review helpful
This movie belongs to two guys: first and foremost, John Leguizamo who makes the roll of Vic, hoodlum trying to go straight, his own; and first time director, screenwriter Frank Reyes who's crafted a urban gangsta movie seemingly crafted with none other than Leguizamo in mind. Stars Leguizamo, Sarsgaard and the always aluring Richards shine with the actors playing gangsta Vic's cronies seeming taking characterization hints from Leguizamo's own cast of characters from his live stand-up. What separates this film from many gansta films of it's ilk (i.e.: "Scarface", "Carlito's Way" even the legendary "Godfather(s)") is it's diseparate "Wallstreet"-ish subplot which is unique in a traditional crime storyline such as this. Sonia Braga still looks great and apparently Rossellini has rounded out but appears in an interesting role.

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 4.33)
15 Votes
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