The actual King of Reggaeton, Raymond Ayala, credited here by his stage name Daddy Yankee, makes his onscreen debut in a film about a young man in Puerto Rico torn between his love of music and the necessity to make a living in the drug scene. When he meets an uptown girl (Katiria Soto) who believes in his talent but ain’t having that gangsta vibe, Edgar Dinero (Yankee) has to choose between the gun or the mic. If this story sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the plot of a number of films designed to send a message to young inner-city men about making the right choices and believing in one’s own talent: it’s a tradition reaching back as far as Black Caesar in 1973. Nevertheless, Daddy Yankee is a good looking and talented kid (the Reggaeton notwithstanding), and he can act. With the right marketing, this one should speak to its target audiences—and their wallets.
When our film begins, Mr. Dinero (which is Spanish for “money,” if you didn’t know) is balancing the “thug life” (as the great Tupac Shakur would say) with his desire to make it in the hip-hop scene. He deals during the night and hits the studio during the day to lay the many hot(-tish) tracks that populate the film. Then he meets Soribel (Soto), and finds the allure of the streets less alluring. For a while, Edgar tries to conceal his gangsta ways, but eventually realizes that he’s going to have to choose—a notion that his crew can’t get behind, his enemies have been waiting for and the cops don’t believe for one second.
Talento de Barrio is a violent movie, intended—one supposes—to evoke a certain realism attendant to the tough streets of Puerto Rico, where they will “cut you, man!” Frankly, this is all fairly passé. Violence in cinema has become so prevalent that all of its shock value is lost (at least on this critic), but the underlying story here is pithy still. And one wonders what sort of film might have been made without the drugs, gangstas and gunplay one less noisy, at least.
Cast: Daddy Yankee, Maestro, Katiria Soto, Cesar Farrait and Angelica Alcaide
Director: José Iván Santiago
Screenwriters: George Rivera and Angel M. Sanjurjo
Producers: George Rivera
Language: English- and Spanish-language, subtitled
Rating: R for violence, pervasive language, drug content and brief sexuality
Running time: 107 min.
Release date: Oct 10 NY/LA