To paraphrase a lyric from “A Chorus Line,” the salsa-saturated melodrama “Shine” can be summed up as “dance: 10; plot: 3.”
The movie is set in New York’s Spanish Harlem, a place — as the heavy-handed opening narration by club owner and drummer Ramon (David Zayas) states — where “our souls are united by the same beat.” Ramon teaches his young sons, Junior and Ralphi, to dance salsa, in a studio downstairs from his nightclub. And he regularly turns down offers to sell his building to gentrification-minded developers.
As adults, Junior (Gilbert Saldivar) and Ralphi (Jorge Burgos) are the star dance duo in papa Ramon’s club. Ralphi also dances with Josie (Kimberli Flores), his boyhood crush. But their romance takes Ralphi away from the club at the worst time, when a fire destroys the club and kills Ramon.
Flash-forward seven years, and the brothers are divided. Junior stayed in New York, running a clothing store for hip urban kids. Ralphi lives in London, working for the same real-estate conglomerate that wants to put a high-rise yuppie apartment building in Spanish Harlem. The project’s construction sites have been hit by a rogue arsonist.
Ralphi is sent home to New York to try to convince the Spanish Harlem locals to sell their homes and businesses. He tries to reconnect with the old neighborhood, but finds resistance from his brother and from Josie, who is keeping Ramon’s dance studio afloat. Ralphi, under pressure from his boss (Alysia Reiner) to bring results, finds himself torn between his job and his family ties.
This rehash of save-the-neighborhood cliches — devised by first-time director Anthony Nardolillo and co-writers Corey Deshon and Ahmadu Garba — is instantly forgettable, except for the ridiculous use of F-bombs. (Some producer was asleep at the switch, not reminding Nardolillo that less profanity means a tamer PG-13 rating and a bigger potential audience.)
The script’s only use is as a clothesline, on which Nardolillo hangs a series of dynamic dance sequences. Flores really shines on the dance floor, in powerful solo numbers and sexy duets with Burgos. The salsa music and dancing have plenty of spice, which nearly make up for the bland story around them.
Opens Friday, Oct. 5, at theaters everywhere. Rated R for language. Running time: 97 minutes.