The opening of Carlito's Way: Rise to Power is misleading -- the filmmakers con you into believing that this straight-to-DVD rush job might actually deliver a true bridge to De Palma's masterpiece, but as soon as the inspired credits end, so will your expectations. Basically a middle-of-the-road crime pic, this prequel takes the framework of author Edwin Torres' first novel about the young Puerto Rican hustler and molds it into to a pedestrian screenplay shot with a truly uninspired eye. The fact that the movie is statically helmed with run-of-the-mill camera setups is shocking. First-time writer/director Michael Bregman (the son of big-daddy producer Martin) seems perfectly satisfied with telling the story with zero flair and an emotional disconnect that just does not gel with the original film. The viewer is constantly reminded of the movie's shortcomings, namely a mishandled love interest and a lead actor that desperately needs more screen presence. Jay Hernandez does an admirable job with mimicking Pacino's bootleg accent, but he never nails Carlito's swagger in a satisfying way. With a poor twist at the end and a laughable supporting performance from Sean "Diddy" Combs, it's obvious why Rise to Power never hit the theaters or prime-time cable -- it just isn't good enough.
by Jeremy Wheeler review