"Pinero", while not a picture without some faults, is still a film that should have been released to a wider audience. Although it did perfectly well in limited release, the film never really went beyond that, topping off at 21 screens. The film stars Benjamin Bratt as playwright Miguel Piņero who, as the movie starts off, is in jail. Still, the poet makes his time in Sing Sing productive, writing the play "Short Eyes", which went on to gain 6 Tony nominations. He also founded the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and went on to play bit parts in shows like "Miami Vice". Unfortunately, while Pinero proved himself to be a major talent, he also could not shake the drug habit that had him continuing to find himself living on the street.
Bratt, who offers a completely convincing and often fascinating performance, is really the main reason to see "Pinero". Unfortunately, I often sensed that a better film could have been made of the poet's life. This film, which often focuses on the difficult final days of the poet's life, doesn't give the audience a full picture of the poet's rise and fall. The film really has no structure, jumping around to various events within his life. This isn't as bad as it sounds, but the film really could have used a fuller portrait of not only the artist, but those who surrounded him; supporting performances (such as Giancarlo Esposito's) are very good, but we hardly get to know their characters that much. Writer-director Leon Ichaso's insistance on jumping from what looks to be 16mm to 35mm color to black and white (occasionally within the same scene) only becomes distracting.
But, whatever I can say about the structure, the portrayal of the supporting characters or the stylistic choices, Bratt's performance really still carried the film over most of these flaws. Clearly, the actor badly wanted this part and jumped into the role completely. It's a strong enough performance, I thought, that I'm surprised that Bratt didn't get more awards notice. However, as good as this performance is and as much as it carried my interest for this movie, I couldn't help but think how incredible it might be had it been in a picture with a less abstract structure and a bit longer running time to fill out the characters a little more. Essentially, I liked this movie, but I sensed that with some changes, I could have maybe loved it.
VIDEO: "Pinero" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. As previously noted, the film often changes up film stocks and style, even within the same scene. This makes for picture quality that is rather inconsistent. Sharpness and detail are inconsistent - the picture often appears sharp and nicely defined, but can occasionally appear even crisper and also more towards the softer side.
The picture had the occasional faults. Heavy grain was spotted in some scenes, but grain was absent during much of the rest of the movie. Edge enhancement proved to be a problem during a few scenes, as a mild amount was visible and rather irritating. Print flaws were also seen briefly, as a couple of specks and a scratch were spotted, but these didn't prove to be much of a distraction.
The color sequences offered varying color palettes; although they often appeared warm and nicely saturated, other scenes could look bleak and subdued. Colors appeared a little smeary during a few moments, but this didn't cause too much irritation. Overall, "Pinero" is a movie with a visual style that's probably difficult to capture on DVD. Although there are a few problems with the presentation, Miramax has still done a respectable job with the image quality.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, but if the surrounds were used during the film, I didn't notice. This is really a front-heavy audio presentation that remains focused on dialogue and the terrific Latin score. Both are presented with fine clarity, although there were a few scenes where dialogue seemed a little rougher-sounding than the rest of the movie.
MENUS: Basic, non-animated menus with film-themed images serving as backgrounds.
EXTRAS: "A Look At Miguel Pinero: The Man", is a 10-minute cross between "making of" material for the film and discussion of the real life poet. The film's theatrical trailer is also included, as are trailers for "Mexico City", "Bravo Two Zero" and "Robinson Crusoe".
Final Thoughts: While I thought Bratt's superb performance could have been surrounded by a better movie, "Pinero" still proved involving. Miramax's DVD offers little in the way of supplements, but respectable audio/video. Worth looking into as a rental first.
The Film ***