"Manhattan Merengue" was the fourth film from promising young urban filmmaker Joseph Vasquez. Sadly it was also his last film, and it was never released in North America. After creating three absolutely unforgettable and realistic movies about the Urban gang life in his hometown of the South Bronx, it seemed like Vasquez wanted to try something new with this final film. and this is where many directors make a mistake. "Merengue" is a dance-themed film, but without a lot of flash and even that much dancing. He does touch upon some familiar themes, such as urban poverty and the life struggles of Latinos in New York City. But this time, he veers away from what he does best, and we get this soapy, frothy tale about the illegal immigrant who dreams of being a Broadway star. Trading in the gritty Harlem and the South Bronx for fancy Midtown is a disappointment. And for a director known for making the most of the NYC location shooting, this time around, New York is hardly seen at all, as it's mostly filmed inside apartments, dance studios and offices. The story is enjoyable but trite, and everything feels synthetic, rather than the authentic feel of his earlier films. Apparently Vasquez was experiencing trouble in his personal life at this point, which might explain this sudden change in style. Still his earlier "Bronx War" and "Street Story" remain two of my all time favorite urban crime dramas, with their intense realism and sharp writing. And "Hangin With the Homeboys," the movie that put him on the map, is a great comedy that turns out to be not a comedy, is something I can re-watch over again. Few directors could capture the city like Vasquez. So many NY movies that cost 50 times more to make, don't come close to the powerful realism that Vasquez achieved with a little money and an immense talent. "Manhattan Merengue" does have it's shining moments too, but don't expect the same kind of intensity of those earlier classics.