When you stop and think about it, the similarities between Italian mobsters and urban gangsters -- as filmmakers commonly portray them -- are really quite astounding. For every gold chain stuck in a mobster's chest hair, there seems to be a corresponding gold medallion slung around some gangster's neck. For every Cadillac, there's a Lincoln Navigator. In place of the Tommy gun, there's the Glock. It's a comparison that writer and director Franc Reyes is all too keen on making in his debut film, Empire.

Played by John Leguizamo, Victor Rosa is a Latino gangsta with all the ambition of a young Godfather and all the attitude of a taller Joe Pesci. He spends his days violently whacking errant drug dealers and monitoring the sales of his own designer "street pharmaceutical" not so subtly labeled Empire -- which is exactly what Vic thinks he's building in his little bit of the South Bronx. But when his girlfriend (Delilah Cotto) announces that she's pregnant, he thinks it might be time to go legit.

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