It would be very easy to slag Carlito’s Way - Rise To Power simply because how do you follow in the footsteps of the inimitable Al Pacino? The first Carlito's Way, while certainly a flawed movie, was helmed with the deft precision of Brian De Palma. It recalled many of the popular gangster films and while I don’t think anybody would say it was the best, it is one of those films that is certainly part of the Scarface/Goodfellas conversation. This new movie, about the young Carlito Brigante “coming up” in 1960s Spanish Harlem, while highly uneven all the way the through, is actually a pretty decent movie. Although it doesn’t really seem set it the past (at least not in a way that I would notice since everything about the film seems contemporary), Carlito’s Way - Rise To Power works for me because of the relationships between Carlito (Jay Hernandez), Earl (Mario Van Peebles) and Rocco (Michael Kelly). These characters have a chemistry that works, and this, above all else, is why Carlito’s Way - Rise To Power can survive it’s bumpier moments.
Lastly, Jay Hernandez does very credible work as Carlito Brigante. I don’t know much about him as a person but I tend to think that this character is very much removed from who he is. That said, I found him very believable. Also, to have to play a role that someone like Al Pacino made famous is virtually asking people to criticize you. Hernandez has some of Carlito’s attributes, but everything is toned down a lot more. From the way he talks, to his actions, there is a lot of the Pacino Carlito in his performance, but for someone of the age that Jay Hernandez is in this movie, everything is basically right where it should be.
Deleted Scenes; Gag Reel and Carlito’s Brothers In Crime
The deleted scenes were a mix of longer scenes that got trimmed in the movie, and scenes that never made it into the movie. They seem to have put a lot into these scenes as far as picture and sound design are concerned. The Gag Reel was just the actors doing a scene and then they would either stop because they were laughing, or they thought a certain line was funny, or something like that. Overall, I found this pretty entertaining. “Carlito’s Brothers In Crime” was a look at the relationship between Carlito, Rocco and Earl, and how they worked together to create such a big crime syndicate. Again, for me, the relationship between these three characters is the heart of this film.
Bringing the Hood to Life; “Making Of” Featurette and Set Tour with Earl
I am glad that this “Bringing the Hood to Life” piece is on here because this movie doesn’t really look like a period film. I know that that’s what the set designer and the producers probably thought they were doing, but this movie never felt like that to me. The “Making Of” documentary has the main people in the movie talking about their roles in bringing this film to life. It is pretty standard, but still a lot of these guys like Luis Guzman and Mario Van Peebles are really charismatic so this helps their interviews. The “Set Tour with Earl” is simply Mario Van Peebles walking us through a scene “in character.” Honestly, the way this guy acts doesn’t seem that much different then how Mario is in real life.
Anamorphic Widescreen - 1.85:1. This movie looks good as far as the DVD compression and the picture quality. The biggest problem I have with this film is that it doesn’t feel like a period piece. In all the supplemental features they talk about the look of this film, and how this movie is supposed to be taking place in 1960s Spanish Harlem, but honestly, except for a few period cars and some of the clothes, this movie seems very contemporary. Maybe it’s the fact that a lot of these actors are young, but I just never got the big gangster movie, period feel that I think they somehow thought they were putting across when they made this film.
Dolby Digital 5.1 DTS. Subtitled in English, Spanish and French. This movie has the “flavah” of the original Carlito's Way. It sounds how you would think a film about Spanish Harlem in the 1960s would sound. There is loud, vibrant music, but the way the characters talk and act sadly seems too contemporary. Also, the mannerisms and the style of speech seem very much like the actors are people who have watched a lot of gangster movies, and are thus bringing that aspect of it to their roles in this movie. It’s as if Carlito’s Way - Rise To Power, in tone, style and mannerisms is a copy of Carlito's Way, which was a copy of Scarface which was a copy of The Godfather, etc...
Earl, Carlito, Nicky and Leticia (Carlito’s girlfriend played by Jaclyn DeSantis) are on the front of this blue and red cover. Sadly, the old, 1960s look of this cover as about as “period” as I feel this movie gets. The back features some more pictures from the film, a well written description to get viewers up to speed (this is a prequel afterall), a Bonus Features listing, a credits list and some technical specs. Why did this movie go basically straight to DVD? I know that they released it in a few theaters the same week this movie came out in stores, but I would think with Jay Hernandez, Mario Van Peebles, Sean Combs and Luis Guzman this movie would have been given more of a shot? Either way, something tells me that Carlito’s Way - Rise To Power will do just fine being released the way it is.
Okay, I would recommend Carlito’s Way - Rise To Power to anybody who liked the original Carlito's Way or likes gangster movies in general. While it isn’t the best movie I have ever seen, it certainly is entertaining and the situations depicted are sure to bring some chuckles and some gasps from viewers. It was also great seeing Burt Young in this movie, even though they made his character seem almost inept. Also, while I don’t think he is a bad actor, Sean Combs is going to find that he has a hard time getting past his real life image in movie roles. I’m sorry, but it was hard to see his Nicky Hollywood character as anybody other than Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs. Also, in case you were wondering, Luis Guzman, who was in the first Carlito's Way, is playing a completely different character than he was in the first movie.
Carlito’s Way - Rise To Power is a decent movie that only suffers because it has so much to live up to.
Carlito's Way: The Rise to Power was released September 7, 2005.