As a young boy Victor Rosa (John Leguizamo - Moulin Rouge!) witnessed the brother he idolised gunned down but it didn't stop him from becoming a drug dealer with his own crew and his own slice of the city he presides over, ruthlessly defending it against other gangs encroaching on his turf. But he finds himself becoming distracted by Jack (Peter Sarsgaard - Boys Don't Cry), a Wall Street stockbroker, and his girlfriend Trish (Denise Richards) as Jack offers him a chance of huge financial success and a way out of crime which with his girlfriend pregnant couldn't have come at a better time. But things end up blowing up in Victor's face as not only do things start to get out of control back in his area of the city but he finds himself being conned.
In the 1983 version of "Scarface" we have a tale of a Cuban criminal involved in drugs who succumbs to greed, in "Goodfellas" we have the story of an Italian-American who gets involved in drugs and gets too greedy. I could go on because there have been a few movies which feature some one getting involved in one criminal activity but as they strive to succeed they end up undone by their own greed and "Empire" is exactly the same. Here we have the story of Victor who with his narration tells us all about his life, his territory, his crew and how he ended up conned. As such as we watch this storyline unfold the question is will he make it out for a happy ever after ending or is "Karma a Bitch".
The thing is that despite its familiarity "Empire" is still a satisfying watch for those who enjoy these types of criminal life stories with a lot of that coming down to writer and director Franc. Reyes. I got the sense that Reyes whilst giving this story some unique elements knew at its heart was still familiar and as such just focused on delivering the story in an entertaining manner rather than trying to compete with those similar movies. But in doing so, by avoiding over stylizing the action or making the dialogue overly scripted he has made "Empire" work in its own right.
And to be honest the casting of "Empire" is spot on with John Leguizamo perfect in the role of Victor. Leguizamo brings out every aspect of the character from being street wise and not adverse to violence to that guy who not only aspires to more but wants to do right by his girl. And it isn't just Leguizamo who is spot on as Nestor Serrano as the big bosses main man delivers that emotionless nature of his character perfectly which makes him an ominous figure.
What this all boils down to is that "Empire" isn't anything out of the ordinary and just another movie dealing with the crime of a small time criminal who gets greedy. But at the same time it is entertaining with a nice level of action, drama and enough style to make it worth watching.