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Reviews & Ratings for
City of God More at IMDbPro »Cidade de Deus (original title)

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6 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Good, very good

Author: Padrese from Bucharest
28 February 2005

Wow,really good movie. The action of the movie is placed in the rough hoods in Rio and presents the hard life there or how the narrator says:"City of Gods has nothing to do with the Rio De Janeiro you see in postcards" It has everything-love,war,revenge,crime,funny.The movie can be seen in two opposite ways- of the child who wants to escape from the rough world and of the rest of the children from there who think the only place to make something in life is there. The actors match very well with the story ,also the director Fernando Mirelles done a very good job. In conclusion this movie deserve his spot in the top of the best movies ever made.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Hand grenade of a debut film! One of the decade's finest!

Author: pandaeyes42 from Australia
1 May 2005

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It all starts with one of the most exhilarating and allegorical opening sequences is recent film history.A chicken caught between two opposing sides.One of those opening sequences,like Danny Boyle's "Trainspotting" (1996), that simply grabs the viewer by the throat and refuses to let them go until the film is done. One of the signs of a truly great film.

Thankfully, "City Of God" quickly proves itself to be equal substance and style. One of the aspects of this film that I love so much is the way that it is very raw,candid and intimate in the story that it tells. I have read that "City of God" has been compared to Martin Scorsese's "Goodfellas"(1990). I can see the comparison in the way that both films basically put you, the viewer,smack bang in the middle of the story they tell.Both films also have that sense of edge in that they are based on true events.

Spanning three decades, the story of "City Of God" covers many aspects of a very negative type of life, that of living in one of the most dangerous slums(favelas) in Brazil. What I found so compelling about the film is the way that it's main character, Rocket, searches for a way out of his supposed predestined fate. Before he discovers photography as a career, his choices are either policeman or criminal, both about as corrupt and venal as each other.

Although confronting and disturbing, "City of God" tells its story with a very down to earth attitude and, at times, a wonderful sense of humour, never more evident when Rocket tells us about his attempt at a life of crime.There is some beautiful writing throughout the film which really makes the viewer give a damn about its characters.

"City of God" is that rare film where the visual style fits the material perfectly. Watch the way that the optimism and innocence of the first part of the film, particularly the depiction of 'the tender trio', is contrasted against events after Lil Dice shows his true colours during the hotel robbery.

The use of a largely non-professional cast also absolutely rammed home this story for me. As a viewer, the worldly wise experience and attitude of a great deal of the cast really shone through. An absolutely gut wrenching moment that illustrates this perfectly would have to be Benny's going away party and its abrupt, shocking ending.To me, Benny was one of the more sympathetic characters in the film.For his life to be taken just as he was finding a way out of the 'ghetto thug life' hits the viewer right between the eyes. It is symbolic of the point of change within the story's framework. In "Goodfellas", Tommy's death was very similarly used.

Like one of my other films that I would say is one of the best of the decade so far, Darren Aronofsky's "Requiem For A Dream" (2000), "City of God" shows how its characters are attracted to something so negative such as gang life and criminal behaviour, while at the same time showing what happens when attraction turns into repulsion; the dream becomes a nightmare.

The clarity with which this is shown in both "Requiem" and "City of God" is something I admired greatly in both films. The ability of both filmmakers concerned to be impartial and non-judgemental in the subject matter at the cores of their respective films impressed me in both "Requiem" and "City of God".The subjects of both films, drug use and gang life respectively, are subjects that,via their films, make filmmakers either glamorize or preach in regards to how they depict their stories.

One of the greatest strengths of this film is its absolute refusal to compromise or sugar coat its depiction of life in the slums.At the same time,I found "City of God" a very positive and hopeful film. The just about prefect final scene shows this. Rocket finally finding a way out of the slums and moving forward with his life, contrasted with the 'runts' planning their death list and how they're going to run the favela. This shows how one can achieve positive things in their life if they choose to do so, or take the easy option and follow what has gone before in their lives, even if it is a very negative thing to do.A very haunting and moving way to end a truly remarkable film.

As someone who loves cinema, I wish more films were this forceful and impassioned. Films like this remind me why I love cinema as much as I do.

Can't wait to see what this director has done in his next film, an adaptation of the John Le Carre novel "The Constant Gardener".Bring it on!

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

A Moving, Powerful, and Compelling Story

Author: arlmovies ( from California
4 March 2005

The basic story, a boy who is raised in the real world, from the beginning of his life. I believe this is one of the most powerful, and truly realistic stories, that can truly show the hardships of reality, and the decisions given to people, and how they choose to accept different opportunities. When I first saw this movie, I thought it was all those things: powerful,moving, beautiful and all that, but I realized this is a story that should be heard. This story reminds me of Lord of the Flies, with realism in it. This movie deserves all the credit it gets and some, and I hope that the situation that this story follows, one day, will no longer exist: life of violence, drugs, and death.

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7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

City of violence

Author: Fong_Chun_Kin from Singapore
29 July 2003

Perhaps expected too much before entering the cinema. Did not turn out as well as I thought it would.

The story is told through the mouth of Rocket, a future photographer who grew up with the hoods in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The narrative style is excellent, the best thing about the film. It throws several stories at the audience one at a time, all linked chronologically and eventually leading back to the opening scene of the show. It's pretty clever and well executed. The acting's top notch too, the hoods feels extremely real, right down to the little 'runt' who cried so painfully when he was shot in the foot.

Without doubt, violence is the integral theme in this film. It shocks initially, but numbs you into submission as the film moves along. A friend commented that the only reason why the City of God is named as such is because the people living there get to see God very quickly. It seems inevitable for the boys to succumb to the world of drugs and crime. Admist all these violence it is really a miracle for the narrator to be able to live and tell his story and not get hit by a stray bullet in the frequent gang shootouts. Perhaps this is the fairytale aspect of the movie. The only person who escapes death is the one who has managed not to subscribe to the seemingly unavoidable world of crime.

The film should have left a deeper impression in me, but yet it doesn't. I don't know why, but somehow my emotions are not stirred. Are we living in such comfort and are so remote from real violence that there is nothing for us to associate with?

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Just... fantastic.

Author: Flagrant-Baronessa from Sweden
22 June 2006

City of God is set in poverty-stricken and corrupt Rio de Janeiro and bravely zooms in on its young citizens in their extremely violent day-to-day circumstances. Some of them are really only just kids. I don't mean kids like "rowdy teens", but actual little children with guns and blood on their hands. It is quite heartbreaking to watch, but very compelling at the same time.

As it follows the life of two childhood friends who take very different paths in life, it is an excellent portrayal of eras—the 60s, 70s and 80s—capturing the style, music and way of life of each. Between the two story lines, the director introduces a multitude of violent characters and their lives in Rio through titled segments. Unlike Tarantino's violent segments, they are cohesive.

It is also stunning to see how well the actors performed in their individual parts, especially when I come back here on IMDb and read that they were not even professional actors, but locals recruited specifically for the film. Wow! More praise: I think City of God possibly has the best cinematography I have ever seen in a movie. It had such a unique mix of shots—sometimes choppy editing (but not Tony Scott seizure-inducing), 70s TV style images, quick camera movements and other times more drawn out and more "epic" shots. All the while it truly felt as though you were there, but desperately wanted to get away from the madness.

However, it may feel, at times, somewhat like an orgy of drugs and guns or mindless glorification of street violence to appeal to teen audiences.

But then I realised the violence is not gratuitous because City of God is about violence (duh, I know) and it condemns it in many ways, such as making out the protagonist non-violent and aspiring to a better life, and getting us to sympathise with him more than anyone else.

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

Visceral and Fabulous

Author: evanston_dad from United States
29 April 2005

"City of God" is an adrenaline jolt of a film that for once manages to find a balance between stylistics and substance. The director, Fernando Meirelles, stuffs his movie to the brim with machine-gun editing, swirling cinematography and pounding music, but while this reliance on fancy tricks has ruined other films, Meirelles is so expert at blending them seamlessly into an engrossing story that the viewer quickly accepts them as inseparable from the world of the film. He delivers a deeply emotional and human story that obviously owes much to Scorsese and Tarantino---but his movie feels completely original, never like a rip off. And underneath all of the action and plotting, there is a compelling message about about the power of art (specifically the camera) and a suggestion that, just as the pen is mightier than the sword, the camera is mightier than the gun. Can't recommend it enough.

Grade: A+

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8 out of 13 people found the following review useful:

A great addition to the gangster genre

Author: eddsj from United States
21 March 2005

City of God is based on the true events of a young man growing up watching everything around him is destroyed. Families are changed and friendships are destroyed so that each character can escape the ghetto that consumes his life.

City of God captures innocence lost at an early age and spans two decades in Rio de Janerio. The movie tackles the hardships of living in poverty, a situation in which the only way out for many is to fight and steal. City of God has two main characters: Rocket and Lil Ze; the movie uses these characters to show that there are different ways to escape the ghetto. Rocket uses his brain and an eye for a great photograph. Lil Ze takes a completely different approach to escape, using muscle and weaponry to take over the drug trade in Rio.

Bráulio Mantovani does an amazing job of making each character three-dimensional. Each character is built with personality and attitude. There is black and white, good and evil. The movie shows the events that each character has gone through to come to a decision point that could change his life from that day on.

City of God borrows a lot of the ideas and techniques from American films. The gangster motif is something that has been done in the United States for over eighty years. Drawing from modern American hits like Goodfellas and Casino, City of God takes over-the-top characters and puts them in adverse situations. A common theme in these movies is the obsession with money and what to do with it when you have it. A big difference between City of God and its American counterparts is how real the violence seems. There is nothing to glorify the killings that take place in City of God.

Another American movie that City of God pulls from is Citizen Kane. Just as in Citizen Kane, flashbacks are used to reveal the story and develop characters. In Citizen Kane, the technique is used to show what kind of man Mr. Kane was. In City of God it is used by the screenwriter and director to develop characters in a limited amount of time.

City of God has it all: a great story line that fosters the development of all the characters, the struggle to overcome one's past, and the battle between good and evil.

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10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

a horrible movie that I strongly recommend

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
13 November 2005

When I say "horrible" I am referring to the vileness of the characters and terrible images in the film. Technically speaking, this is a great film--with some of the most amazing and innovative cinematography I have ever seen. The stories are interwoven very well and the film seems so very real. It is so unfortunate at the film's conclusion you find out that although these are actors, the story itself is true. It's just so hard to imagine living in this hell on Earth in Rio. After seeing this film, there's no way I am ever visiting Brazil!! I'm sure many viewers feel the same way due to the absolute brutality of their slums where the police do little to interfere with gangs who run it.

FYI--there's an excellent and sobering documentary on the Criterion DVD of this movie about the drug problem in Rio in the present day. However, it and the film itself are very intense and bloody so I would not allow kids or even teens to view the film. It's really a shame, as most of the way through the documentary I realized it would be a great thing to show my high school world history class. But, the sight of a room full of naked teens with their penises a-dangling changed my mind!

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10 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Excellent, but overrated by the IMDb-users

Author: Travis_Bickle01
30 October 2005

"Cidade de Deus" is the breakthrough of Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles ("The Constant Gardener"). It tells the unbelievable but true story of the gang life in a poor neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. The neighbourhood is mostly ruled by kids and young adults, who doesn't play cowboy and Indian like most kids of their age do. No, most of the time they are busy dealing drugs, robbing local stores or killing other young adults in order to extend their territory.

The story is told by Rocket, a young guy who tries to live an honest life and not to be involved in the gang life. Fernando Meirelles made an amazing movie of an exceptional story. The story is disturbing and chocking. If it wasn't based on true events, this movie wouldn't have been such a big hit either. It's the combination of an objective style, fast filming, a great soundtrack and the chocking story that made "Cidade de Deus" a revolutionary movie.

Although the events are tragic, don't expect a melodramatic story. I don't think the purpose of the director was to move us. I think he wants as to be chocked after seeing this movie. Although we are confronted with violence on TV every day when we watch the news, the fact that kids are involved in this kind of gang life is really chocking.

Although I really liked this movie, I think it's highly overrated. Personnaly, I don't think it deserves such a high ranking in the Top 250. Nevertheless an excellent movie. 8/10

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

The Brazilian "Goodfellas" ...

Author: ElMaruecan82 from France
20 February 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The opening of "City of God" is inhabited by a voodoo-like trance, as if the whole spirit of Rio de Janeiro's titular suburbs was translating its turbulent and tortured soul into one of the most thrilling pieces of editing you'll ever see in a film.

A chicken is watching a former friend being prepared for meal, someone cuts a carrot, feet in dirty sandals follow the music, and the poor animal is visibly worried watching in live-action its fate to come. But we don't have time to empathize for there is a quick glimpse on the most emblematic character of the film, "Lil Ze", a sociopath killer, King of the City, who doesn't know yet that his reign is coming to an end. To a certain extent, the chicken mirrors his destiny, a bad omen covered by the frenetic rhythm of the Samba. But as if was applying to itself the city's motto: "If you run, the beast catches; if you stay, the beast eats" the chicken takes its chance and flees from the human beasts.

Meanwhile, 'Rocket' aka Buscape, a honest boy of "City of God", in other words an outcast, finds himself caught between the chicken and Lil' Ze's gang. He turns back and finds the Police behind him. At this time, the cornered Buscape becomes the chicken, living in microcosm what he's always been: someone with a foot in the criminal world and another one in Civilization, with a befitting profession as a photo-reporter. And he's naturally the narrator, embodying his eternal position as someone active enough to plunge us in the deepest roots of "Cidade de Deus" and passive enough to stay a witness, a privileged position for the audience, not quite for him … not when we meet him anyway.

And in one of the most beautiful ellipses, the director Fernando Reilles takes us back to the 60's, where boys are playing football and when the 'Tender Trio' leads all the criminal activities. At that moment, it's impossible not to connect "City of God" with another gangster classic. Actually, if there is one film that definitely established the status of "Goodfellas" as a classic, it is "City of God", also adapted from a novel, a dramatization of real-life events written by Paulo Lins. But in this Brazilian "Goodfellas", the protagonist never wanted to be a gangster, Lil' Ze did but his character borrows more from Joe Pesci's character... and calling him a sociopath is an understatement.

Indeed, Lil' Ze makes his bones by killing the occupants of a brothel. He was the Trio's lookout and they all agreed not to kill anyone. Visibly, Lil' Ze had other projects and his exhilaration while shooting his first bullets becomes the film's defining picture. One of the trio leaves, one is killed by Lil' Ze. The last one tries to leave but the beast taking the form of police officers catches him … whoever lives by the gun, perishes by the gun. We know that, but nonetheless, there's a sort of idleness and anarchy in these 'favelas' that makes the criminal option almost inevitable. We're far from New York streets, this is not the American Dream, this is Brazil, the white bourgeoisie lives the great life, and Black people are stuck with unemployment and poverty.

The temptation of easy money becomes contagious and can even strike the Police. Generally, they don't care much when one of the City dies, and it's only Lil' Ze's outburst against the upper-class that brought their attention. The irony carried by the title is another similarity with "Goodfellas", if there ever is one absent from this city, it is God. We might be in the grandest Catholic country, people have no more faith in God than they have in Law. Gun and violence are the true assets of power and Lil'Ze understands it. He gets rid of his opponents, consolidates his power, and keeps his childhood friend Benny as a partner and adviser. A new decade, a new generation … sex, drugs and Samba.

And for a little while, stability governs the City of God. But the beast never sleeps, it's only taking a break. On his side, Buscape, a wannabe protograph, lives a sweet romance with one of the favela girls, but his incapacity to defend her against the 'Runts', the littlest ones, makes him appear as a weak person, no gangster stuff anyway. So, after the beach incident, the girl loses her interest and falls in love with Benny, the most popular guy around. Later, they want to leave the city to become honest … but a strike of fate reminds us that we can't never leave City of God, as if there was still a sort of moral debt to pay, as if God was still there after all.

The action in "City of God" is fast-paced, the narrative driven by a gallery of unforgettable characters, and with an exciting documentary value to emphasize the social commentary, showing every single detail of the drug-business, gang wars, murders, robberies, rapes, shoot-outs... and naturally, Police corruption. Some scenes are particularly upsetting, the most infamous one shows Lil' Ze assessing his power over the 'Runts' by executing one of them. Some scenes like this are necessary to remind that the first victim of (gang) war is innocence. Meanwhile, Buscape loses his with a journalist and starts as a trainee before we get back to the first scene, culminating with the revenge on the Runts on 'Lil'Ze'.

Buscape is confronted to his first professional dilemma : a picture of cops being bribed or Lil' Ze turned into Swiss cheese, his practical choice highlights the fact that he still knows where he comes from, so better to take some precautions. The ending proves him right with the new generation taking the power. Indeed, as long as there are people, there is hope, and when there's no hope, there'll always be crime.

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