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By Eric Allen Hatch | Posted

From Arenas Entertainment, a new Latino film imprint, comes . . . a film that horribly stereotypes Latinos. In director Franc Reyes' flat Empire, Bronx-based drug kingpin Vic Rosa (John Leguizamo), sobered by a tragic attack on a rival (effectively played by Fat Joe) and his own impending fatherhood, decides to leave the game behind. He ends up collaborating with socialite Trish (Denise Richards) and her preppy investor boyfriend, Jack (Peter Sarsgaard), on converting his illegally earned income into cold, clean cash. In doing so, he alienates his old neighborhood and his powerful, matronly drug supplier, Joanna Menendez (Isabella Rossellini). Amazingly, Leguizamo convinces neither as a hardened Latino gangster nor as an upwardly mobile sellout. Reyes also fails, mounting no dramatic tension whatsoever and finally unveiling a climactic "twist" that any waking audience member (or anyone who saw the theatrical preview) will have predicted by the time the credits finish rolling. But most offensively, Empire splits its time equally between glorifying the testosterone-saturated O.G. lifestyle and warning ethnic minorities against straying from their roots--even if their roots encompass streets strewn with bloodshed and bullets.

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