"For everybody -- everybody! -- money is what life is all about," Vic Rosa (John
Leguizamo) lectures us in voice-over in one of his many pedantic sermons. Vic
compares himself to entrepreneurs past and present, including John D.
Rockefeller and Bill Gates. Vic, a local heroin kingpin, is in charge of the
drug dealing territory of the Bronx that he calls the Empire. The area is such
a rich mother lode that just twenty disputed feet between it and the next gang's
turf are worth twenty-thousand dollars a week in revenue.
EMPIRE, written and directed by Franc Reyes, comes out with its rhetorical guns
blazing, as it takes on capitalism by suggesting that stock holders are the
moral equivalent of drug dealers. I am not making this up. As Jack, a filthy
rich investment banker puts it to Vic, "[Companies] have stock holders all over
the world who are basically accessories in crime."
This educational show teaches us that drug lords are really regular guys at
heart. Even big drug powwows are interrupted so that the guys can play video
games with their sons. When the drug dealers do fight, they prove that they
didn't learn much from the video games. Rather than hiding, they stand up like
statues as their big guns blow each others' brains out.
The bad news about EMPIRE is that it isn't a parody. It appears to believe all
of its twisted economic theories, making the movie feel like it was made by some
old Bolsheviks, who, in a vodka stupor, thought they were remaking THE
GODFATHER. Leguizamo (MOULIN ROUGE's Toulouse Lautrec) is a fine actor who
deserves something better than EMPIRE as his first high profile starring role.
EMPIRE runs 1:30. It is rated R for "strong violence, pervasive language, drug
content and some sexuality" and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes