Fifteen years ago, their Washington Heights neighborhood was dubbed the crack-cocaine capital of the world, but today it is transforming into one of the most vibrant, Spanish-speaking ...
See full summary »
Fifteen years ago, their Washington Heights neighborhood was dubbed the crack-cocaine capital of the world, but today it is transforming into one of the most vibrant, Spanish-speaking communities in the United States. While the drug dealers continue to disappear, their violent legacy still casts a shadow over the neighborhood and its residents. Junior, an ex-convict struggling to get his life back on track, is a product of this legacy. His younger brother Manny, the salutatorian of his high school class, embodies the hope of the future. On the night of his graduation party, Manny finds himself faced with an ill-fated decision that could change his life forever.Written by
Sujit R. Varma
MANITO, the newest Reel 13 Indie about Puerto Rican brothers trying to escape their families' dark past and make ends meet in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood in Washington Heights, was extremely frustrating to watch it's very dark (Was it timed down? Did the compression in the transfer crush the blacks?), some of the non-actors with accents are hard to understand at times, the foul language gets to be grating and the quick, jump-cut editing style is mostly jarring. In spite of all that, however, the story of MANITO still manages to come to surface and make the film an engaging experience.
MANITO epitomizes what we mean when we use the term gritty it's whip-camera, verite style, the grainy texture of the film, the Washington Heights neighborhood and the promise of violence that hangs over the film like a dark cloud all contribute to this effect. This is not to say, however, that it does not find ways to be very charming and heartwarming at times (the testimonials at Manny's graduation party are a good example). In fact, I think the film is more effective in its depiction of Hispanic-American life than the Sundance winner from two years ago, Quinceañera. The film-making is stronger and perhaps more importantly, the characters and performances are significantly more believable.
Franky G is probably the only recognizable name in the piece as the philandering, ex-con brother Junior Moreno. Franky G is probably best known to audiences for his supporting tough guy work in films like CONFIDENCE, THE Italian JOB and WONDERLAND. In those films, his performances were rough around the edges, but his charisma was undeniable. Here, G seems more in his element and gives his most complete performance to date tortured with rage for the past that was thrust upon him, burdened by the pressure of turning his and his family's life around and also unable to overcome some of the vices he accumulated during his dark days. Relative newcomer Leo Minaya is sweet as the titular character (mostly referred to in the film as "Manny") who promises to be the bright light in the family with his acceptance to Syracuse University, but he is not tremendously natural on-camera. He seems (probably unconsciously) acutely aware that he is part of something artificial and his that's reflected in his performance he's wooden and affected, but in an earnest sort of way. As important as his character is, though, his weaknesses as an actor are not so extreme that the film suffers greatly for it.
MANITO is by no means an uplifting experience. It seems that hope is in short supply for families such as the Morenos. The documentary style of the film makes the conclusion of the film feel very real and therefore it is all the more haunting. The way director Eric Eason portrays violence with blurred out-of-focus imagery that puts a particularly emphasis on the sound seems much more disturbing that it would be if we were shown everything. As much of a downer that Manito can be at times, however, one gets the sense that it hits home for many Hispanic-Americans living in major cities and in that sense, happy or not, MANITO is an important and worthwhile film.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this