Directors sometimes feel the need to 'spice up' biographical pictures in a style reminiscent of the subject. In this case, writer/director Leon Ichaso (Hendrix, Ali: An American Hero) feels the need to wallow in style so much that the subject, playwright Miguel Pinero, never is able to transcend the material. Pinero is a movie for people who already know and appreciate Pinero's work. For those who do not know who he is, this is not a good place to learn information about him. Ichaso approaches Pinero's (Benjamin Bratt, Traffic, Miss Congeniality) life in an elliptical manner, showing some of his work and experiences, but fails to provide a broader picture of who Pinero was. Miguel Pinero, who died in 1988, was a poet and playwright who was nominated for a Tony Award in 1974 for Short Eyes, a play about his experiences in prison. His unique style is an acknowledged precursor to rap. Pinero was a self-styled "Nuyorican," a New Yorker and Puerto Rican.

Bratt is the reason to see Pinero. He lobbied hard for the part, mainly to prove that he can indeed act. He hides his trademark good looks behind scruffy facial hair, and immerses himself into the role of Pinero. Bratt gives a fearless performance, brashly jumping off the screen. Anybody who previously thought that Bratt made it only on his looks can watch this and see he is the real thing. One cannot say the same about the other actors. Bratt has so much screen time that everybody else disappears into the background. Most also have few lines, so the individuality of Pinero's friends mesh together. The only recognizable identities are Miguel Alarin (Giancarlo Esposito, Ali, Monkeybone) and Sugar (Talisa Soto, That Summer in LA, Flight of Fancy), two members of Pinero's circle of friends.

The film begins around the time Pinero was in jail, then for the most part moves forward, jumping about erratically to highlight certain aspects of his life. The hardest thing about this is grasping who some of the people in his life were. Otherwise, Ichaso outlines some of the more important events in Pinero's life, most of which mostly reflect a downward spiral into alcoholism. One character who could potentially be interesting is Joseph Papp (Mandy Patinkin, The Adventures of Elmo in Groucholand, Lulu on the Bridge). Papp puts up with Pinero's antics because he knows that Pinero, when he sets his mind to it, could do great work. When he cannot deal with Pinero's actions anymore, he ends their professional and personal relationship. The highlights of Pinero are when Ichaso has Bratt perform some of Pinero's poetry. It is done with music to marvelous effect, showcasing the power and vitality of Pinero's work. Alas, it only happens a couple of times.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 40 minutes, Rated R for drug use, strong language, and sexuality.

Back to Movies