18 August 2005 | rsoonsa
Made On The Cheap, And Obviously So.
Here is a unique cinematic province: smuggling of highest quality Cuban cigars into the United States, activity that apes marketing of illegal narcotics, with the main prize being Fidel Castro's favoured "Mariposas" that sell for $10/25000 per box, and the possession of which stimulates various groups in the script to willingly risk both danger and death. First-time director Brett Mayer, who also scripts, developed the concept while filming a documentary in Cuba, the featured role going to Lillo Brancato as Lenny Prince, a "stick (cigar) man" who deals black market smokes from Cuba to his tony Hollywood-based clientèle. The kingpin who controls the West Coast black market cigar trade is Domino (Leo Rossi) into whose private Hollywood club Lenny sneaks to vend his product, and when Prince's friend Mark smuggles in, via Mexico, a large supply of Mariposas meant for Domino, Lenny attempts to obtain several boxes for his own sales stash. However, Mark's Cuban girl friend Maria (Justina Machado), active within an anti-Castro movement, plans to doublecross her lover by bartering the stolen Mariposas for automatic weapons to be delivered to her comrades in arms, and she persuades Lenny to assist her, the two conspirators then having to outmaneuver Domino and his goons, along with illicit gun dealers and corrupt law enforcement personnel. The film is handicapped by a very low budget, as is apparent from the sets, with an effect that production quality is unimpressive and shortcomings grow apace as the piece progresses, with erratic editing, lumpish blocking and scene set-ups, and mixed Latin and swing scoring that is unimpressive, at best. The opening credits are nicely done, and some able actors are on board, including the excellent Cuban player, Orestes Matacena (misspelled in the closing credits) as a paterfamilias of the Cuban resistance organization, and Howard George as Domino's principal henchman, with David Kriegel earning performing honours as a rather comedic thug, but Machado has a remarkably small emotive range in a film that essentially is betrayed by inexperience at the helm.