review for Piñero on AllMovie

Piñero (2001)
by Andrea LeVasseur review

Shot with digital video, Leon Ichaso's rambling mood piece Piñero attempts to emulate poet/playwright Miguel Piñero's lyrical writing style. As Piñero, Law & Order star Benjamin Bratt is a charming rogue eternally smoking cigarettes and adjusting his fedora. With his scruffy beard, aviator sunglasses, and mop of curly brown hair, Bratt swaggers his way through scenes offering up raw words and wild gestures. His powerful screen presence against the backdrop of New York rooftops, smoky cafes, and crumbling flop houses is properly accompanied by a jazz soundtrack courtesy of Kip Hanrahan. These stylistic choices do well to fit the mood of the poet's life, but they do little to further the narrative. The only real information is offered in text form, summarizing the writer's life rather than setting up a story. The shaky handheld camera and arbitrary jolts to black-and-white too often feel like camera tricks implemented for no other reason than to look cool. The dialog also suffers from overdramatic lapses into poetry and ranting where straight conversation would've been helpful to break things up. These flaws can be overlooked for audiences who are already familiar with the man's story and just want to get a feel for his living, breathing words, but those looking for a biography may be disappointed. The film's circular construction makes it difficult to follow, but as a tribute to the late great poet it still gets all the sweaty, smoky tones right.