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Cássia Kis Magro
In Rio, Máiquel is without prospects. He's philosophical and low-key. When he loses a bet and must dye his hair blond, life changes: he finds new confidence, he asks Cledir, the hairdresser, on a date, and when he's teased by a local tough kid, he murders him. Instead of an arrest, Máiquel's a local hero; the cops look the other way. He and Cledir become lovers, his victim's girlfriend Érica, who's 15, insists that he protect her and moves into his small flat, and job offers come his way from a group of rich men who want to settle scores and get rid of local riff-raff. Where can this business go, and what about the triangle of Cledir, Érica and Máiquel? He just wants to be normal? Written by
A Quietly Disturbing Character Study Made with Style
Murilo Benecio is a young Brazilian actor who just keeps turning out fine, solid and very different character roles. As the leading character is this well made film by director Jose Henrique Fonseca from a script written by his father Rubem Fonseca in turn based on the novel 'O Matador' by Patricia Melo, Benecio molds a memorable portrait of a man of low self esteem who is strangely and inadvertently raised to the level of hero in the most bizarre of circumstances.
The setting is Rio de Janiero and Maiquel is a loner looking for an identity. On a bet he decides to have his dark hair bleached by the beautiful beautician Cledir (Claudia Abreu) and finds that as he steps back into his world he is the object of notice. After a cruel teasing by thug Suel (Wagner Moura) he buys a gun and almost unwittingly kills Suel who dies in the arms of his girlfriend Erica (Natalia Lage). Despite Maiquel's fears of his arrest he finds that the neighborhood rewards him for ridding them of a criminal and Maiquel becomes a hero. Not only is he rewarded with gifts (including a pet pig he names Bill after watching Bill Clinton's visit to Brazil on TV!), he is also given free dental work by Dr. Carvalho (Jorge Doria) in exchange for agreeing to kill an enemy of the dentist. More and more people ask Maiquel to whack bad people making Maiguel's new blond persona a hit man and man of the year. How he ultimately begins to spiral downward when his life is complicated by a marriage and family and holding a regular job forces him to initiate his own choices of violence and return to his original hair color to alter his destiny! If the story sounds odd, it is really a depiction of life in the city of Rio where the police are impotent to control the violence that prevails. Maiquel becomes the Robin Hood/Batman type who brings a degree of safety to his community. Wisely Benecio holds our attention and our compassion as he performs his many murders, creating a man in whom we can believe and applaud despite the grim things he does.
The cast is uniformly fine and the cinematography by Breno Silveira and the musical score by Dado Villa-Lobos (an important guitar player, relation to composer Heitor Villa-Lobos unknown!) is classy. This is yet another fine film from Brazil, in Portuguese, and one that deserves wide attention - especially for Murilo Benecio's superb performance. Recommended. Grady Harp
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