There has always been a scuzzy glamour to artists, from Rimbaud to Norman Mailer, who feed their creative fires by embracing the extreme, getting high on pleasure and rage, living with the crazy fullness of self-destruction. The late New York poet and playwright Miguel Piñero was a thief, a hustler, and a junkie who emerged from incarceration in Sing Sing to become a visionary of the spoken-word school.
Piñero presents us with a man whose life was as fluid as liquid nitrogen, and it’s the strength, as well as the weakness, of Leon Ichaso’s jumpy, prismatic biopic that the film flouts order and civility as proudly as its sociopathic-angel hero did.
Piñero, who had a success with his prison-set play ”Short Eyes” (made into a powerful 1977 movie starring Bruce Davison), never shucked his outlaw tendencies, which burned through his existence and his talent. Ichaso wants to splash the sordid, blazing mess of Piñero’s life all over the screen, but his action-painter filmmaking leaves you with enticing fragments rather than a full, satisfying portrait. As a movie, Piñero is too undisciplined to see that its subject’s ruling demon — his love of the gutter — was itself a tragedy of indiscipline. That said, the film is worth seeing for Benjamin Bratt’s performance. Tall and scruffy-handsome, he makes Piñero a proud and wounded figure who squeezes drops of tenderness out of his fury, a tenderness he applies to everyone but himself.