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El Cantante


Stars: Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, John Ortiz, Manny Perez, Vincent Laresca

Director: Leon Ichaso

Despite (or perhaps partly because of) full-throttle performances from real-life marrieds Anthony and Lopez, this biography of drug-riddled salsa king Hector Lavoe seems to last for hours. And without giving us much of a story. It's just one stream of music and drugs without any narrative drive, as the stars alternately snog and scream at each other over a 20-year love-hate relationship.

The young Hector (Anthony) migrates from Puerto Rico to New York in 1964 and soon becomes a huge stage and recording star. He marries Puchi (Lopez) but the drugs kick in early and he spends the rest of his life on the edge. As Puchi - the film's narrator in a 'contemporary' interview - says: 'The more he grew as an artist, the deeper he sank as a person'.

The only relief from this constant downward spiral is the music. And, while it's vibrant and rhythmic, there's far too much of it, underlining the weakness of the storyline, which fails even to explain how Hector did 'grow as an artist'. Finally, seeing, in a flash of clarity, the years of glory lying drowned, he attempts suicide.

Some of the film's period details are annoyingly bogus: You Only Live Twice is seen showing in '64 New York, even though it wasn't made for another three years. The title, by the way, translates as The Singer.

David Quinlan

USA 2006. UK Distributor: Revelation Films. Colour by deluxe.
114 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 3, Swearing 2.

Review date: 31 Aug 2008