The latino ex-con in this film is Enrique "Quique" Rodríguez (adequately played by the still very handsome Esai Morales), who has been imprisoned for 3 years on a host of charges. Enrique nearly makes it to the end of his term without a problem, but just before his scheduled release he attacks a fellow prisoner, a predator--on him, Green shows us, quite subtly at first--which only temporarily delays his release back into his native Bronx. Enrique faces the trials enumerated above; in fact, he's late for his homecoming party because he decides, against his better judgement, to sample a forty and hang out with his corner-bound group of old Gs (among them Franky G).
For Enrique's wife, Angela (the splendid Judy Reyes), his tardiness, in addition to the disappointment and annoyance it causes, is an immediate harbinger of how difficult readjusting to his return will be for both of them. Further complicating matters for both is a passionate relationship she has developed with her mechanic Hector (Vincent Laresca) during her husband's absence; she quickly squelches it, but that only goes so far. For Enrique's parole officer Thompson (the reliably bulldoggish Isaiah Whitlock Jr.), it's a countdown until Enrique screws up and heads back to prison. None of this feels or plays especially fresh, and Enrique's character is just not as deep or complicated as he needs to be, but Green's characterization of Angela in particular and her recognition of the well of pain and frustration her husband carries around, as well as her own ambivalence, begin to push the story towards something compelling.
Instead, and predictably, the film turns on the axes of Enrique's inabilities to deal with his child, which Green treats in several unfortunately trite moments (at a baseball game, and when Michael is forced to visit a prostitute), and to stay out of trouble. Those Gs, that anger, that parole officer, of course. Green does, however, adroitly tie these two strands together, culminating both in a scene of horrifically violent revenge and a quest that tragically concludes the narrative. Still I wondered by the end of the film whether we ought and could not have had more of Michael/Vanessa's story and less of Enrique's. Or rather, what might the story have looked like if the balance of narrative had shifted a bit more in Michael/Vanessa's favor. That film's day, I hope, is coming soon.
|Harmony Santana and Esai Morales|