The Unrewarding, Middlebrow Falling Awake


A commonplace Bronx tale about a Latino pretty boy who has a shot of escaping the gang violence in his dead-end neighborhood through perseverance, sensitivity and song, one-named Cuban-born director Agustin’s unrewarding middlebrow drama flaunts its street cred dubiously—from the clean-cut cast’s forced hip-hop slang to the unsophisticated rivalries established between its Puerto Rican and African-American characters. The twist here is that young Jay (Andrew Cisneros) isn’t some wannabe rapper but a guitar-strumming singer-songwriter who inexplicably covers Blind Melon while busking in a park, which is where he attracts the token girl from the better side of the tracks (Jenna Dewan). The film hints at progressive themes like Jay’s multicultural interests (besides his music, he’s into martial arts and learning Chinese) and the plight of his ex-Marine older brother, home from Iraq with a worrisome case of PTSD. But Agustin and his cowriters soon disregard both in the service of a hokey gangsta plot concerning thugs who will kill for a pair of stolen designer kicks, and a now-standard case of generational angst from the prideful, loudmouthed father.