The Mambo Kings
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- Unrated version of film, with one additional scene & a remastered soundtrack
- Behind-the-scenes featurette
- Theatrical trailer
Top Customer Reviews
The events in this sharply stylized period film take place in the nineteen fifties, at the height of the mambo dance craze. Two young Cuban musicians, brothers Cesar (Armand Assante) and Nestor Castillo (Antonio Banderas), flee Cuba after a love triangle takes a potentially deadly twist. The love sick Nestor leaves behind the love of his life, the beautiful Maria Rivera (Talisa Soto), now married to his romantic rival.
The brothers arrive in New York, where Cesar meets the lushly sensuous, blonde bombshell, Lana Lake (Cathy Moriarty). They eventually marry, while Nestor, still carrying a torch for Maria, meets the sedate and quietly pretty Delores Fuentes (Maruschka Detmers), whom he eventually marries. Given a helping hand by fellow Cuban, Desi Arnaz, Sr. (Desi Arnaz, Jr.), Cesar and Nestor shortly become stars of the dance halls and clubs they play, where they are christened the "Mambo Kings".
Unfortunately, Cesar's dreams are not necessarily Nestor's dreams and conflicts arise. The brothers also run into trouble when Cesar's arrogance pits him against a musical syndicate that rules the clubs and dance halls with an iron hand, derailing their careers for a time. Moreover, Nestor's marriage is seriously troubled, because of his obsession with his lost love. Still, no matter what, there is always the music.
Armand Assante gives an over-the-top, manic performance as Cesar, the older brother whose arrogance and single-minded ambition nearly alienates his brother.Read more ›
Second, the plot takes some unique twists and turns. The relationship between two brother seems formulaic at the beginning and then both characters acquire unexpected depth and traits. I believe that both Antonio Banderas (this was his first Hollywood film) and Armand Assante give their best performances to date.
To this day, I cannot figure out why Armand Assante never received any props for this film whatsoever. Though not of Cuban descent, he's perfectly cast as the arrogant and hot-blooded Cesar Castillo. Antonio Banderas' first English film role doesn't do his career any harm; though he only learned the script phonetically, you won't notice the difference.
The other star of this film has to be the music; one of the best soundtracks of the 90s hands down, with music by Tito Puente, Celia Cruz, Beny More, and Machito, this is a great Cuban music sampler.
If the ending of the film seems incomplete and/or rushed, it's because it ends right about halfway through the novel (the second half documents Cesar's latter years). But believe me you can't go wrong with this movie. Anybody who doesn't feel the beat of this film pounding through their veins is dead.
The book definitely should be read, but AFTER seeing the movie-it's darker and will detract from the fun of the film. Oh, by the way, Antonio has NEVER looked better!
The brothers are played by Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas and both are extraordinarily well cast. Assante conveys the more hedonistic Cesar with greaat intensity and Banderas actually steals the film with a remarkable performance as the more sensitve brother Nestor.
Fine casting, including a fairly strong performance by the late Celia Cruz makes this movie a pleasure to watch. Marusckha Detmers plays Nestor's wife Dolores and while she looks great she poses more effectively than she acts.
Overall this is a fine entertaining film and while the plot is derived from the novel in order to translate it to the screen some obvious liberties were taken with the story that frankly do not detract much from the enjoyment of a film that stands on it's own merit.
The backdrop of 1950's Mambo-crazed NYC is also very cool and well done.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great music. Love the story of the love between two brothers. The younger brother's "true love" of his first love for a woman. Read morePublished 18 days ago by Francisco Barthelemy
Fun DVD with infectious music by the many 1950s masters (Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, etc.) and gorgeous locales and cinematography.Published 1 month ago by David Thorn
Antonio & Armand are two of my favorite guys so of course, this film is a must!Published 1 month ago by Barbara Martin
I can see why the author wanted Armand Assante and Antonio Banderas. They work so well together and their charisma is just right as the Cuban Castillo brother trying to hit the... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Pamela J Parizo
Tough but wonderful story line. And excellent performance by Armand Assante although there was certainly a little chewing on the scenery.Published 3 months ago by Cathie Reid
Music is great, storyline very good. Antonio Banderas & Armand Assante really convincing as Cuban big band musicians trying to make it in the USA.Published 5 months ago by Kristy
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