Shot in and around Washington Heights, Manhattan's predominantly Hispanic Upper West Side neighborhood, this Sundance Special Grand Jury Prize winner is a promising feature debut for writer-director Eric Eason and boasts an attention-grabbing performance from its star, Franky G. It's the story of two brothers whose lives seem to be moving in opposite directions, but who, tragically, both wind up victims of the worst kind of violence: their own. Manuel "Manny" Moreno (Leo Minaya) is looking forward to a bright future. He's about to graduate from high school near the top of his class and has been accepted to Syracuse University on a full scholarship. Manny's older brother Junior (Franky G.), on the other hand, is trying to leave a dark past behind him, a past inextricably linked with his drug-dealing father, Oscar (Manuel Cabral), who once used a teenage Junior as a look-out. Junior was eventually busted by the cops and refused to snitch on his father, but his loyalty went entirely unacknowledged; Oscar never once visited his son in prison. Now on parole and trying to establish himself as a paint contractor, Junior is determined to stick to the straight and narrow, though he does employ illegal day laborers, falsifies his insurance certificates and can't seem to remain faithful to his girlfriend, Miriam (Julissa Lopez). Junior refuses to allow his father anywhere near Manny, and when Oscar shows up drunk and uninvited to Junior's lavish graduation party for Manny, Junior throws him out on the street. But Junior can't protect Manny from the neighborhood's lurking evils, and when an early morning assault lands Manny in jail, Junior has no choice but to turn to the father he hates for help. Shot documentary style on location, with conversational and often improvised-sounding dialogue — much of it in Spanish — spoken by a cast of newcomers, Eason balances the clichés of a fairly standard story with convincing realism and a powerful momentum that never flags.
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- Released: 2003
- Rating: NR
- Review: Shot in and around Washington Heights, Manhattan's predominantly Hispanic Upper West Side neighborhood, this Sundance Special Grand Jury Prize winner is a promising feature debut for writer-director Eric Eason and boasts an attention-grabbing performance f… (more)