Jay Hernandez as Carlito Brigante
Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs as Hollywood Nicky
Luis Guzmán as Nacho Reyes
Jaclyn DeSantis as Leticia
Mtume Gant as Reggie
Juan Carlos Hernández as Sigfredo
Domenick Lombardozzi as Artie Jr.
Stu ‘Large’ Riley as Stu
Ramon Rodriguez as Angel Rodriguez
Nelson Vasquez as Manny Sanchez
Tony Cucci as Detective Big Jeff
Giancarlo Esposito as Little Jeff
Got Your Back: Carlito’s Brothers in Crime
Bringing the ‘Hood to Life
Set Tour with “Earl”
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
DTS 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Subtitles
Theatrical Version Running Time: 1 Hour 40 Minutes
The following is the description from the DVD cover:
“From the producer of Scarface and Carlito’s Way comes the action thriller Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power. Jay Hernandez (Friday Night Lights), Mario Van Peebles (Ali), Luis Guzman (Carlito’s Way) and Sean Combs (Monster’s Ball) star in the gripping tale of the early years of gangster legend Carlito Brigante. Seduced by the power of the brutal New York underworld, he enters a deadly circle of greed and retribution. Assisted by his two brothers in crime, Carlito is on the fast track to becoming Spanish Harlem’s ultimate kingpin. He quickly learns, however, that the only way to survive at the top is through loyalty to his friends and respect for the rules of the street.”
Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power is rated R for language, violence, sexual content and drug material.
Though this movie is advertised as being a sort of prequel to Carlito’s Way, it really has very little to do with the first film. Besides being based on the portion of Edwin Torres’ novel not used in Pacino’s adaptation, it is more of someone else’s interpretation of “Carlito’s Way” than a continuation of it. None of the characters from Pacino’s film are in this movie (besides Luis Guzman who plays an entirely different character.) It also lacks the style, the cinematography, the intrigue, and the acting prowess of the first film.
Carlito’s Way: Rise To Power has numerous other problems. For example, when Jay Hernandez provides narration as young Carlito, he sounds like he’s doing a bad impression of Al Pacino doing a bad impression of a Puerto Rican accent. The rest of the time he’s more or less OK. And though this movie is set in the 60’s, it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The characters dress very trendy even by modern standards. There also nary an afro to be seen. This is especially apparent with Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. He’s obviously included in the film because he provides name recognition, but he’s not a very good actor. This results in him getting significantly more screentime than he deserves. The original Carlito’s Way also featured a great soundtrack with period music and Puerto Rican tunes, but that is cast aside here. There’s little to make it unique.
About the only interesting part of Carlito’s Way: Rise To Power is the overall concept of three ethnically diverse characters uniting to control three portions of New York. It allows for three very different gang styles to be shown and unique interaction between them. This all culminates in a twist at the end where they cleverly get themselves out of a mess that puts them at odds with everyone. Unfortunately our heroes are shown to be cool and likable despite the fact that they are murderers, thieves, drug dealers, thugs, and generally bad people. The movie does nothing to make audiences think there might be something wrong with shooting a guy dead over a few dollars.
I would really only recommend this movie to fans of the Edwin Torres novels. They’ll be interested to see how their favorite character is depicted in this new adaptation. Fans of the Brian De Palma movie will likely be sorely disappointed by it.
There are a few bonus features included on this DVD. Here are the highlights:
Deleted Scenes There are a few deleted scenes included on the DVD. One shows more of Sean Combs using his car phone and his driver saying that in the future people will use the phones like in Star Trek. Another deleted scene shows Carlito as a young boy working at a newspaper stand and seeing his employer killed by loan sharks.
Gag Reel This is your standard gag reel with flubbed lines, pranks on the set, and missed cues. You also see a lot more of Luis Guzman clowning around with Sean Combs’ bodyguard / driver.
Got Your Back: Carlito’s Brothers in Crime This short feature describes the relationship between Carlito and his two partners. If you’ve seen the movie, it’s kind of redundant. There are interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more.
Bringing the ‘Hood to Life This feature shows how they scouted areas in New York for filming and how they made it look like Harlem in the 1960’s. It’s an interesting logistical challenge that you don’t always appreciate while watching the movie.
Making-of Documentary This is your standard “making of” documentary with interviews with the cast and crew, behind the scenes footage, and more.
Set Tour with “Earl” Mario Van Peebles takes you on a tour of a location shoot for one of the key scenes in the movie. He clowns around with the cast and crew in the featurette.
The Bottom Line:
While a prequel to Carlito’s Way is an interesting concept, the final product isn’t all that impressive thanks to a lack of style, a lack of a period setting, and mediocre acting.