‘Puerto Ricans in Paris’: LAFF Review

Comedic chops alone don’t quite cut it for this debut feature

Luis Guzman and Edgar Garcia co-star as New York cops on an overseas assignment in France.

Perhaps better described as “Nuyoricans in Paris,” Ian Edelman’s buddy comedy plunks two New York cops down in the City of Light to pursue an unusual undercover investigation that takes them well outside their comfort zone. With barely a clue but plenty of attitude, the pair doggedly attempt to apply their street-wise style to the rarified realm of Parisian high fashion.  

Urban audiences will likely respond to a storyline familiar from any number of news reports and reality TV segments, although capitalizing on the catchy setup may require overcoming a certain lack of familiarity with the otherwise appealing French cast.

Edelman’s feature focuses on designated fashion police Eddie (Edgar Garcia) and Luis (Luis Guzman), Puerto Rican-American brothers-in-law working undercover for the New York Police Department investigating counterfeit scams involving high-end designer goods. With an enviable enforcement record, their sometimes unorthodox style catches the attention of couturier Vincent (Frederic Anscombre) and his star designer Colette (Alice Taglioni) after thieves pinch the prototype for her new must-have ladies’ handbag from her Paris atelier and threaten to flood the market with fakes if they don’t receive a payoff. The Parisians’ offer of a $300,000 finder’s fee for recovery of the bag if the partners will undertake a private investigation in Paris seems straightforward enough to the seasoned pros, who jump at the chance for an overseas assignment.

Read more Los Angeles Film Festival Unveils Lineup

First Eddie needs to convince his dubious wife Gloria (Rosie Perez) that the promised reward will make it worthwhile for her to take care of their four kids alone while he’s away, but she trusts that her brother Luis will be able to keep the mission on track even if her faith in Eddie has been shaken by recent romantic lapses. Checking into their luxurious Paris hotel, they’re both convinced that they’ll quickly be collecting their payout. After donning several rather unconvincing disguises to undertake the handbag search, they finally determine that the leads provided by Colette and Vincent are coming up short.

As time begins running out before the thieves’ ransom demand must be paid, their situation gets much more complicated as Colette begins falling for Eddie, who’s already been thoroughly seduced by his first experience of Paris. Frustrated by failing to attract Colette’s favor, Luis meanwhile can’t catch a break with any of the local ladies either, as he begins to question his rash rejection of marriage-minded former girlfriend Vanessa (Rosario Dawson). Facing perplexing romantic quandaries as well as professional ridicule if they can’t apprehend the couture counterfeiters, Luis and Eddie will have to marshal all of their collective policing powers to uphold the world-renowned reputation of the NYPD and claim their reward. 

Read more 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Named Fandango's Most Anticipated Movie of 2015

Plucking series regulars Guzman and Garcia from his former HBO fashion-focused comedy series “How to Make it in America,” Edelman competently translates the show’s New York milieu to Paris haut-couture circles. His script, co-written with Neel Shah, displays very modest ambitions, however, concentrating on supporting characters and minor incidents that won’t strain the budget with complicated chase scenes or elaborate locations.

Drawing on a substantial track record of comedic performance, Guzman adopts his usual approach by coming on much too strong, a strategy that elicits its share of laughs in action-oriented scenes, but tends to overshoot the more dramatic moments. Garcia carries less baggage, but too often can’t match Guzman’s enthusiasm, which leads to a noticeably unbalanced character dynamic.

Taglioni more than holds her own in a critical supporting role with a charming performance that provides both of the male leads with the grounding required for them to advantageously reevaluate their romantic situations. As their counterparts, Perez and Dawson regrettably amass insufficient screen time to boost their limited visibility beyond a couple of key scenes, leading perhaps to the observation that the next time the Puerto Ricans go to Paris, they might do well to take the ladies along.  

Production company: PRIP Productions

Cast:  Luis Guzman, Edgar Garcia, Alice Taglioni, Frederic Anscombre, Rosie Perez, Rosario Dawson, Miriam Shor

Director:  Ian Edelman

Screenwriters: Neel Shah, Ian Edelman

Producer: Joseph Zolfo

Executive producers: Mark Allan, Luke Daniels, Luis Guzman, Brandon K. Hogan, Corey Large, Alan Pao

Director of photography:  Damian Acevedo

Production designer: Tania Bijlani

Editor: Justin Krohn

Music:  Jonathan Sadoff
No rating, 81 minutes