Writer-director Anthony Nardolillo crafts a love letter to New York’s Spanish Harlem with “Shine,” an anti-gentrification story that’s a bit like “Step Up: Revolution” in its belief that groups of people dancing is enough to convince real estate developers to stop developing. The choreography is fantastic, but the melodramatic story makes “West Side Story” look subdued.
The routines created by director of choreography Andy Lyrik Cruz and team are, in a word, fire, as taut bodies spinning like tops mesmerize on the dance floor, set to the blaring beats and propulsive drums of salsa.
So it’s disappointing when the electrifying dance numbers are jettisoned for the lackluster story. Jorge Burgos and Gilbert Saldivar star as Ralphi and Junior, brothers whose lives are torn apart when their musician father Ramon (David Zayas) dies. Ralphi goes to work for a real estate developer in London and returns home seven years later when the company needs him to ease the process of snapping up property in his old hood.
But Ralphi reconnects with his roots, his estranged brother and his long-lost love, Josie (Kimberli Flores), and decides to stage a fundraiser at the New York Salsa Throwdown, buy the dance studio and save his home. Though many of the character shifts and story beats are facile, “Shine” achieves its goal of presenting music and dance as love, connection, family and important forces for maintaining culture throughout the inevitability of urban gentrification.
Rated: R, for language
Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Playing: Starts Friday in general release