Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: R for violence, language, mature themes
Run Time: 2 hours, 33 minutes
Garcia’s passionate love letter to his native
dictates Fulgencio Batista’s fascist dictatorship segues into Fidel Castro’s
ruthless social justice and the good life goes to pot, caught in a vice of
anger, discontent and revolution. Fico’s handsome younger brothers Luis and
Ricardo (Nestor Carbonell and Enrique Murciano) embrace the political upheaval
and can’t or won’t acknowledge that
Rather predictably Fico finds himself mired in tragedy, suffering Ricardo’s betrayal (as a puppet for Che Guevara’s guerilla left) and the death of Luis in an urban rebel coup. Ultimately he falls for Luis’ sultry widow Aurora (Inés Sastre) who herself becomes a pawn in Castro’s evil game by accepting the titular position of Widow of the Revolution.
between his desire for
but admiration for the fervor that Garcia brings to his convoluted mood piece,
an eighteen-year crusade that’s finally come to fruition. The production design
is gloriously lush -- vivid with the blistering tints of the
But “City” bites off far more than it can chew, layering on political principles and broken love affairs with abandon and taking its sweet time doing it. Piles of clichés (“In the sea, even a shark can drown”) smother impending doom, applied via grainy black-and-white footage of Castro’s victorious seizure of a country on the edge.
Garcia calls in the favors of some thespian heavyweights but both Bill Murray and Dustin Hoffman (as an expatriate American writer and gangster, respectively) are cumbersome fits for their poorly crafted roles. Garcia himself is muy caliente (hot hot hot!), looking every inch the rico suave in a snow-white tux and a dark chocolate smolder.
Handsomely executed but hopelessly flawed, “City” is an historical epic sans the epic.