Talento de Barrio

Dir: José Iván Santiago
Star: Daddy Yankee, Maestro, Katiria Soto, César Farrait

There can't be many people whiter than I, who appreciate reggaeton music [actually, the second clause there is somewhat redundant], but it's just so damn infectious, that even this Scotsman has to shake his groove thang. I'll spare you any further details. The undisputed king of the genre is Daddy Yankee. It's his Gasolina which got us into it, and this is his feature debut, It does go a little bit further than 8 Mile - which featured the massive stretch of Eminem playing a rapper - since Yankee plays a drug-dealer who wants to be a rapper. Edgar is fed up of the paranoia and violence, especially after a neighbourhood kid is shot dead in an incident with a rival gang, and his disapproving upper-class girlfriend (Soto) is also keen to get him off the streets. Fortunately, Edgar has talent on the mic, giving him a potential escape route. However, the man he picks to succeed him (Maestro) proves an unwise choice, not least because of his abusive relationship with Edgar's sister.

In other words: not much here to distinguish it from every other rap/gang movie ever made. We were amused by the way the star wears a different baseball cap in ever scene - despite his name, we spotted Cardinals, Pirates and Braves lids. That said, Yankee is decently serviceable in the lead role, even if he's helped by a script that very much soft-pedals the illegality of his day-job and the damage it causes. [There's a couple of cops; while somewhat sympathetically portrayed, they're basically an irrelevance] The setting, in the Puerto Rico slums, feels authentic enough and the music is everything we hoped. The predictability of the movie does become somewhat painful in the second half, with a needlessly flashback-y structure that doesn't add much. Admittedly, middle-aged white men - even ones married to Cubans! - are really not the intended audience for this; I doubt I'd be further removed from the target demographic for anything this side of gay porn. On that basis, I'm inclined to cut it a bit of slack and spare it from my usual, relentless criticism.

[November 2009]

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