Manito is the Man. The titular 17-year-old Latino (Leo Minaya) is the pride of his crime-ravaged, drug-packed New York neighborhood. He graduated at the top of his high school class and is the first in his family to enroll in college. Minaya's loving big brother (Franky G.), however, is a pumped-up ex-con with major anger issues who's trying to rebuild his life after taking the rap for their drug-dealing dad.
Franky from the block throws a graduation bash for his bro, but the mood is spoiled when their old man tries to crash the festivities. Then things really out of control when Minaya and his date have a disastrous run-in with some thugs. Though it takes a while to find its focus, Manito--shot on grainy video--keeps it real with a palpably gritty portrayal of life in the urban jungle. And the raw performances from the cast of newcomers add all of the right elements. A solid, touching effort.