Empire needs some editing

It is said that these days, people have no time to themselves. No wonder, they waste it all in long movies. It’s not the fast pace of life or the 40-plus hours spent at work that take away from leisure time; it’s the insane amount of wasted film that really gets the best of people. Lately, more and more movies have not received nearly enough editing time.

Unfortunately, Empire is one such film.

The premise of the movie is a dead giveaway from the previews: Enter drug dealer with gun, enter white Wall Street boy; drug dealer and Wall Street boy make deal; white boy ditches; drug dealer seeks revenge.

The plot is simple, and the movie possibly entertaining. And although nothing deep can be expected of such a typical guy flick, one thing viewers can expect is lots of action and definitely lots of revenge. At least, that is what one would expect from watching the previews.

But what the audience members get could not be further from these expectations.

The first part of the movie shows life on the street. This is, of course, needed to show how tough it is to be a dealer and how hard a dealer must work to keep his or her turf. Fights, shootings (with a flying anti-aircraft gun), death and gore all show the rough lifestyle of the good-hearted street boys. But if first-time writer-director Franc Reyes’ purpose was to create an action-packed film, he failed miserably. The first 30 minutes seem more like an introduction to a mobster movie of the 21st century, when gangsters reign in “da hood.”

But then the excitement dies off.

The next thing that comes to mind while watching the movie is the pitiful soundtrack chosen to accompany crucial scenes. The distracting light jazz during a shootout, the annoying Latin love songs during a parting scene of angry lovers, and the happy music that accompanies the saddest death scene completely ruin any kind of mood the filmmaker might have wanted to establish.

But while the film lacks plot and falls short in technical areas, the acting is rather strong. As with most Hollywood films and the range of actors to choose from, a studio can easily pick those who will play the roles best.

John Leguizamo is the street pharmacist whose broken heart would make him more endearing if it were not for the fact that he’s still a drug dealer. Leguizamo has successfully tackled playing a drag queen in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar and a French artist with a knack for musicals in Moulin Rouge. He is convincing here, as well.

However, the indisputable show stealer is Isabella Rossellini as a drug queen named Joanna, aka “La Colombiana.” Her part is small but vital, and she looks amazing with the antiquated ’80s hairdo. In fact, the entire movie is worth seeing just to experience the five minutes that Rossellini appears on screen.

Unfortunately, even a brilliant actress such as Rossellini cannot save a movie whose length should be 50 minutes, not 90.

On top of that, the extreme morality of the movie does not come anywhere close to salvaging it.

It is, in fact, its biggest flaw. Because, as many a great man has said (and if they have not, they should have), if movies were made to have morals they would all be written by Mother Goose.

Other than Rossellini, the only recouping qualities of the movie are the large number of comic relief moments and the atypical Hollywood ending.

Now, if the rest of the movie could have been shortened by about 40 minutes, the audience would have gotten everything it expected, if not more.

Contact Olga Robak at oracleolga@yahoo.com

‘Empire’ is rated R and opens Friday.