A parallel father-son dynamic is played out between Mickey Kilpatrick (Danny Hoch), a half-witted wannabe bowler, and his domineering landlord dad (Jude Ciccolella). And there's the supporting cast of usual suspects, including Maggie (Andrea Navedo), Carlos' loving and sure-minded girlfriend, and her renegade brother, Angel (Bobby Cannavale), whose baritone bravado intoxicates his every scene.
Without a mother to watch over it, “Washington Heights” takes some unruly turns, and the hand-held digital camera play makes for an occasionally bumpy ride. Yet rather than disarm the drama, these devices give the film a visceral pitch equal to the world it represents. Throughout, director Alfredo de Villa tells the story with an effective warts-and-all honesty. In one particularly grueling sequence, Carlos is summoned to his father's bedside, not for a sentimental heart-to-heart, but to change the old man's soiled pajamas. This role reversal isn't just another sappy the-child-is-the-father-of-the-man moment--and this is where the film ultimately succeeds. Its depiction of life sidesteps cliché, sticking to the borough of real and plausible human emotion. Starring Tomas Milian, Manny Perez, Danny Hoch, Jude Ciccolella and Andrea Navedo. Directed by Alfredo de Villa. Written by Manny Perez, Alfredo de Villa and Nat Moss. Produced by Luis Dantas, Manny Perez, Tom Donahue and Alfredo de Villa. A Mac release. Drama. Rated R for language, sexuality, brief violence and drug use. Running time: 87 min.