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Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights), Mario Van Peebles (Ali), Luis Guzmán (Carlito's Way) and Sean Combs (Monster's Ball) star in the gripping tale of the early years of gangster legend Carlito Brigante. Seduced by the power of the brutal New York underworld, he enters a deadly circle of greed and retribution. Assisted by his two brothers-in-crime, Carlito is on the fast track to becoming Spanish Harlem's ultimate kingpin. He quickly learns, however, that the only way to survive at the top is through loyalty to his friends and respect for the rules of the street. (FILMAFFINITY)
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Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power movie full length review - Hernandez almost mirrors Pacino in this underrated and entertaining prequel
The producer of the masterpiece 1993 gangster film "Carlito's Way", Michael Bregman, brings the novel "Carlito's Way" by Edwin Torres to the screen as a prequel to the events in the 1993 film.
That film was based on the book's sequel "After Hours", but to avoid confusion with the 1985 Martin Scorsese film, the title was changed to the title of the first book.
New York, sometime in the 1960's, Carlito Brigante (Jay Hernandez in a superb performance) is a young Puerto Rican thug about to be released from prison. He became good friends with two men in prison, the African-American Earl, and the Italian-American Rocco. When they are released, Rocco and Earl go into business together in the prospecting heroin trade in New York City and ask Carlito to join them. But Carlito's old street ways of violence and sharp tongue can only serve to get him and the other guys into big trouble in this business, especially with 'Hollywood Nicky', the powerful black man who overlooks the heroin trade in New York City, and makes sure that the Italians keep to their side, the blacks to theirs, and the Puerto Ricans remain in the middle. As Carlito and the gang move up in the ranks and become feared and respected in their part of the city, Carlito begins a relationship with a nice Puerto Rican girl who isn't very aware of his real lifestyle, and things get messy when Earl's younger brother, a black revolutionist, causes some trouble with the Italians that they are in business with. Before I even mention how underrated this film is, I want to point out what a great actor Jay Hernandez is. As yet, he has never gotten his true break which I think he deserves. He has appeared in well known films such as "World Trade Centre", "Hostel" and "Quarantine" - the American remake of the French horror film "Rec". He is brilliant here portraying a younger, slick Carlito Brigante, in a performance that almost mirrors Al Pacino's in "Carlito's Way". He must have spent hours watching that film in preparation for this role. Mario Van Peebles ("Jaws: The Revenge", "New Jack City") is brilliant as Earl. 'P-Diddy' stars alongside Hernandez as Hollywood Nicky in a very good performance, and strangely, and this I have to admit was very stupid, Luiz Guzman, who starred in a prominent role in "Carlito's Way", plays a crack-pot hit-man in a very eccentric and weird performance that seemed unnecessary. Why could they not have chosen a different actor? It was just off-putting having an actor from the first film playing a totally different, non-related character. The editing is perfect and the film flows at a fine pace and is very entertaining. I don't understand all the negativity surrounding the film, probably just because of what it is as usually, prequels or sequels of any kind receive a lot of sometimes exaggerating negativity and abuse. But "Carlito's Way: Rise to Power" is a brilliant prequel, albeit flawed, but is still a fine tribute to one of the greatest gangster films ever made.