Four small gangsters from Copenhagen trick a gangster boss: they take over 4,000,000 kroner which they were supposed to bring him. Trying to escape to Barcelona they are forced to stop in ... See full summary »
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
In City of God's shadow but a great film with a good plot and well-delivered social commentary
After getting his hair dyed blond as a bet, Máiquel goes to his local bar where he is laughed at by Suel. Enraged by this insult (in front of a girl), he returns later and shoots Suel. He is afraid of capture by the police but he finds that not only is he considered a hero by the local community but also by the police who are happy that he killed Suel as he was a criminal but too young to be sent to jail. With his reputation as a vigilante he is approached by his dentist, Dr Carvalho to do another killing a rapist who attacked his 17-year-old daughter. Máiquel finds himself drawn further into the killings while his life also tries to turn normal, with a new wife and a child on the way.
City of God has opened up the wider world to not only Brazilian cinema but South American generally and it is a good thing despite films that maybe didn't deserve it getting a wider release. This is not the case with this film, which I am glad got an European release and, thanks to arts channel BBC4, got it's UK television premiere a week or so ago. The plot covers similar ground as City of God in terms of it's subtext (if you could call such an obvious point 'sub') as it deals with the violence of the lower classes as contrasted with the apathy of those rich enough to afford to leave it behind. The film makes this point in an enjoyable story that sees Máiquel sucked into being a killer of criminals and being involved with the rich men within the local community, however he is only ever their tool and can easily be replaced he is never more than a member of the lower classes, albeit a member that is temporarily useful. This main story is enjoyably slick and stylishly told and it's only downside is that it could easily have been just a little shorter and punchier. This works but it is made much better by Fonseca's comments on current society.
As already mentioned, Máiquel's descent into violence and despair is likened onto the spiral of despair and violence seen in the slums of Rio. Although the story is exaggerated for the sake of the film, the meaning is there nonetheless. The film makes the further point of it by showing several things within Máiquel's life that he has no control over Érica and Bill are both things suddenly in his life that just happen and he seems unable to take action either way. With these social comments the film shows itself to be intelligent and aware and this helped me get over the occasional flaws in plotting. Also helping the film a great deal is the acting from a good cast.
Benício is a big actor in Brazil and he is good here, he starts as an arrogant kid and becomes increasingly frantic and violent. His character is basic but he keeps Máiquel an interesting person and never just a metaphor for Brazil's problems. Abreu also undergoes a transformation and, although in a smaller character, hers is even better. At the start of the film she is carefree and beautiful and, with mostly attitude and voice she becomes a tired, unattractive wife! The rest of the cast are all good in various roles and there are no real weak links. The performances are all natural and make the story feel very real when delivering a script set in a very believable Rio.
Overall, City of God may get all the press but this film is almost as good despite not being as expansive and stylish. The basic story is enjoyable and involving and is only made better by the layers of commentary on society that is carries with it. The direction is good and this is a very enjoyable film that will hopefully continue to be seen by greater audiences worldwide as a result of City of God's success.
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