This biopic of Nuyorican Salsa idol Hector Lavoe doesn't miss a beat, as the rhythmic music more than outweigh a tale of fame, fortune, and tragedy.
El Cantante has the off-screen couple Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez paired as Hector and his long-suffering wife Puchi. Lopez serves as a producer here, driven to get Lavoe's story to the silver screen. The result, which mostly chronicles Hector's rise and fall from the 60s to the 80s, is atmospheric and filled with passion. But, the uneven, cliched look from Puchi's standpoint, in cinematic verite, isn't vital or as tangible as Lopez's portrait of slain Tejano singer in Selena a decade ago.
Director Leon Ichaso (Pinero) puts fervor into how life changes for Hector as he moves from Puerto Rico to New York City in the early 60's. But, it is manifested from the discourse by an unseen "director" to Lopez's jaded, brusque Puchi, deglamorized more so by some unflattering aging makeup.
This flashback tale covers "El Cantante", the star performer, who puts his wife and son through a lot, including drug addiction, adultery, and becoming infected with HIV. Lopez overshadows her real-life husband here. Not that Anthony (Man on Fire) can't act. It just seems to be her show, and the pain of this couple's life is evident in a picture that should be less embattling and more emotionally pulsating in trying to captivate behind the sizzling sounds of Salsa.