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:: Carlito's Way: Rise To Power

The film tells the back-story of the character Al Pacino played in “Carlito’s Way” (1993) - Harlem drug lord Carlito Brigante. The story opens with Carlito Brigante's (Jay Hernandez) release from jail shortly after his 21st birthday, followed by his efforts to establish a drug-supplying business with two prison buddies (Mario Van Peebles and Michael Kelly). Carlito and his new partners encounter plenty of opposition from various sources - including a slick criminal named Hollywood Nicky (Sean Combs) and a pair of corrupt cops (Giancarlo Esposito and Tony Cucci). Meanwhile, Carlito is pursuing a relationship with a street smart coat-check girl (Jaclyn DeSantis) - despite some serious opposition from her brother.

The film follows Carlito and his crew's attempts to bring cocaine to some of New York's poorer neighbourhoods - while also avoiding several sinister underworld figures. And though this is the sort of story we've seen many, many times before, Bregman (who also wrote the film's screenplay) effectively holds the viewer's interest by populating the proceedings with a variety of intriguing, quirky supporting characters.

Jay Hernandez wears the goatee and gun of Brigante this time, playing the character as a small-time crook of the 60’s who works his way up to the big time – never forgetting his friends along the way. Mario Van Peebles scores one of the juiciest roles he’s had in quite some time, as Earl, a big-time dealer that Carlito met in Prison, whilst Jaclyn DeSantis shines as the big man’s love interest, who's kept-in-the-dark when it comes to Carlito’s business activities. She believes he’s a concert promoter. Her brother doesn’t like him - one bit. Luiz Guzman, who actually appeared in the original film, plays a different character here - the amusing Nachos, Burt Young (‘Paulie’ is looking about as old as ‘Mickey’ these days) is an Italian gangster with a penchant for making racial slurs.

The film isn’t a patch on the original film. The production values are lesser, the performers aren’t as entrancing (though Hernandez isn't bad in trying to do a Pacino), and the storyline’s not really there – but as a direct to video effort, it’s rather good.

There’s an abundance of extra features on the disc including deleted scenes, a gag reel, and interviews. A commentary would’ve been welcome though. The DVD extras don't really pack a strong enough punch.

DVD Extras

- GOT YOUR BACK: CARLITO'S BROTHERS IN CRIME - AN EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ACTORS MARIO VAN PEEBLES & MICHAEL KELLY
- BRINGING THE 'HOOD TO LIFE - A BEHIND-THE-SCENES LOOK AT THE CREATION OF THE 1960'S HARLEM SET
- DELETED SCENES
- GAG REEL