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

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

A Heavy Cloud Over Heaven.

Author: tfrizzell from United States
17 September 2004

A popular surge swept the land just prior to the 2003 Oscars and "City of God" became a critical success with the Academy. The popularity is somewhat misleading though as this production has tons of problems with its Oscar-nominated script and uneven performances across the board. The setting early is 1960s Rio de Janeiro. A ghetto just outside the city limits is the breeding ground for dangerous gangs of thugs who are little more than adolescents who go around and create chaotic violence. One of these youngsters grows to become Leandro Firmino, a heartless miscreant who toes the line between just being cruel and being down-right psychotic. He is kept somewhat under control by his top assistant Phellipe Haagensen, but in their world both are in as much danger as those that come into contact with them. As all this goes on another youngster (who grows to become Alexandre Rodrigues) from the same neighborhood looks to take a different route completely by trying to become a photographer. Rodrigues, like his contemporaries, also has a life that seems to be on a tight time table. The picture advances to the 1980s and the ultimate fates of the primary characters come shining through in vivid and ironic fashions. Directors Fernando Meirelles (Oscar-nominated in the category) and Katia Lund develop a technologically interesting picture that benefits greatly from landmark cinematography by Oscar-nominee Cesar Charlone and highly difficult editing techniques by Daniel Rezende (also Oscar-nominated). The camera-work is enough to give this film a high mark, but once again the performers are not as good as advertised and the script by Oscar-nominee Braulio Mantovani is unsteady and a bit pretentious. The fact that the tale is based on fact does not really give the picture any more credibility than it would have if it had been from the mind of a foreign screenwriter. The characters are not always believable and are usually not worth caring about. Many problems, but still a noble and overall intriguing product. 4 stars out of 5.

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6 out of 10 people found the following review useful:

a mixture of brilliance and utter disturbance

Author: nbpatel
22 April 2004

this movie is pseudo-documentary meets Little Rascals meets Peter Parker meets Scarface meets Godfather meets Lord of the Flies meets so many other classics. it's not derivative at all, but it certainly makes you compare elements to the all-time greats of entertainment.

you hope for closure for our young photographer narrator but never quite get it, coming to the realization that this City of God is truly the Land of the Damned, even today subject to profound political corruption and gang violence. this isn't your Rio from the travel brochures...

it's quite sad that more people haven't seen this film while it's been out in arthouses and other cinemas around the country. i hope someone who hadn't seen the movie will read this and be spurred to at least rent it.

verdict: 10/10.

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10 out of 18 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 3 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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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful, Brutal, Wonderful, Creative

Author: runninggnome from South Wales
4 January 2014

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This is my first ever review, combine that with the fact I'm talking about a film considered to be modern day classic for which I'm almost certain everything that needs to be said about this movie has already been done so. Be that as it may I wanted to write a review and this is one of my favourite movies to date. So on to the movie. The movie unfolds with an almost constant narrative by the main character 'Rocket' A young photographer who grew up in and around the slums of Brazil. The story he tells chronicles the events that took place affecting him, his family and his friends growing up. Much of the story details the violent rise and fall of several gang hoodlums from their childhood to (in some cases) their deaths. Fernando Meirelles delivers beautiful cinematography, capturing amazing detailed believable environments with excellent use of extras (many of whom actually live in the slums)creating a thriving busy Brazil, best exampled in the leaving party club scene. In my opinion this movie is close to perfect, a brutal depiction of Brazilian slums wonderfully acted and creatively captured. Hows that for a short cliché review? Facts not opinion :)

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Crime doesn't pay for anyone

Author: StoryCharts from Canada
10 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

City of God is a movie about the idea that crime doesn't pay for anyone. It goes about demonstrating this idea by showing a succession of people trying to take over the ghetto with violence. Some of the candidates are kind-hearted Robin Hoods (Tender Trio), some are accidental gangsters (Knockout Ted), some are simply evil (Lil'Z) and some are a bunch of prepubescent kids (Runts). They all use violence to pursue crime. They all fail. Even as the Runts seem to rule the day at the end, having killed Lil'Z, you know things can change tomorrow (they're like, 10 years old). These four external plots are joined by an internal plot of our protagonist, Rocket, successfully avoiding a life of crime by luck and some fortitude.

The movie seems to want to be more than an episodic chorus of violence. It strains to show that the ghetto and a broken system makes crime and criminality inevitable. It shows this mainly through the reluctant criminal of Knockout Ted who is basically forced to become a gangster after trying to live virtuously. But this idea is relegated to secondary importance for me: much of the violence is glorified, and our hero does escape a life of crime (even though he is no where near as virtuous as Ted was), providing contrary evidence to the idea that crime is inevitable.

A change of protagonist from Rocket into Knockout Ted might have gotten this movie onto this bigger idea.

That's not to say the movie doesn't have some pretty memorable scenes, locations and the fact that it's a Brazilian production based on true characters is pretty awesome. I just think it could have mixed its potent ingredients together towards a bigger idea.

My Story Chart of the movie is at

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

My favourite movie of all time!

Author: Raoul Weatherell from Tilburg, The Netherlands
8 July 2013

For almost 4 years now, Die Hard had been the greatest film I had ever seen. It was top of my list of films, and it always shone as the top film, I never questioned it's position. I still do not question it's position today, simply because it is most definitely the second greatest film I have ever seen. City Of God is sensational, a masterpiece emanating from the slums of Brazil.

The film starts off in a newly built City Of God, a favela in seemingly pretty good nick. The narrator, Rocket, is introduced. Rocket is a Nick Carraway from Great Gatsby sort of person. He does his best to stay honest, even talking to the audience in a way Nick Carraway does. He also tries his best not to be involved in anything, yet finds himself having a weak connection with every character in the film or book. In fact, Rocket's story is so close to that of Li'l Zé (legendary antagonist) that it becomes a plot point how far apart their lifestyles dictate them to be. Never has a film spoken so much to me about so many things. The physical and emotional power of drugs, crime and murder. The gang of Li'l Zé could be a band of misfits, composed of ginger haired cocaine addicts and aggressive 9 nine year olds, but more sinister gangs are we unlikely to come across in real life

I often seem to have problems with the way death is treated in Western films. I remember the copious amounts of deaths, and it feels so dehumanised that I never fully enjoy western films. Clint Eastwood just shoots bandit after bandit, and never gets anything coming to him. In City Of God, every act, every murder of a person has a family behind it. A family that will seek revenge, and no matter how primary the antagonist or protagonist is, it will not make them any harder to kill. Clint Eastwood has Chuck Norris like abilities of invincibility if any of his Westerns are to be believed. These acts of retribution come as a shock to every character, as it does to the audience. It is so well made and true to life, that one cannot pick out who has what agenda. The film also uses flashbacks to now important dialogue, to enhance the facepalm at your own stupidity effect.

Finally, the film making. This is what nails the film as being head and shoulders above the rest. Even Matrix-style bullet time shots are used, but they finish by being melted into a shot of the same character, but 20 years previously. Magic. We also get many scenes shown together in real time from different perspectives, and it never seems to be too much for the human eye. It beats 3D images any day of the year as well.

The list can go on, but not without spoilers. If you are OK with themes such as drugs, murder, rape and heartless 8 year old psychopaths, then watch this film as soon as possible! Actually, even earlier if you can.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Bold and Suspenseful

Author: Franco Renoscu from United States
20 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

City of God is certainly one of the most exceptional foreign language films in movie history! The movie excels in every level. The captivating camera shots make a truly fascinating cinematography. Editing was brilliantly done with some Pulp Fiction influence added into it. No single actor's performance particularly outshine the most, but the ensemble performance, from the street kids to the crime masterminds, is remarkably convincing! The screenwriter made the story so suspenseful, bold and daring, that you would not want to miss a single scene. And the truly best aspect of the movie is its ingenious film making. Watch out for the "apartment scene" where the genius director shows how one small apartment drastically transforms as its inhabitants change through the years.

I would not recommend the film though to people with a weak stomach. I must admit that watching this film was pretty difficult to me because i have no experience of residing in the slums or what other people calls "the ghetto." Everything might come extremely shocking if you are not aware of the reality drug trades and gang wars. There are very graphic violent scenes so watch it at your own risk.

I would recommend it though to people who wants to see something honest, bold and dare. It is one of the, or probably the, most brutally honest film you will ever see! What this film achieved is boldness, directness, and honest filmmaking at its finest!

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The most realistic movie ever made!

Author: raphaklopper from Aveiro, Portugal
16 April 2013

CITY OF GOD, critically acclaimed, loved by many, considered the best movie in Brazilian cinema, this is all true ...? Yes, probably.

Many people told me that this movie was a MASTERPIECE (agree), others said it was too exaggerated (shut up), well, here's what I think! This movie is EXCELLENT, period. Shows what life is like in one of several favelas of Rio de Janeiro for these children and young people growing up in a world of violence.

Buscapé (main character) is a boy like any other that has dreams to realize: be a reporter; having a girlfriend; cash in his wallet. Dreams difficult to achieve in this slum standing gang war between Zé Pequeno (also main character) and Mané Galinha, for reasons both territory and personal revenge. Where we see also the lives of many people in this slum, his experiences and his thoughts on life as they have. And the most impressive in this film is the casting.

In the film we can only see a maximum of 2 actors, because all other characters including the main character, are even people who live in the favela City of God, and they make everything real (the film is based on true events if you do not know). In the end, this movie is fantastic and truly a classic!

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

City of Gritty

Author: kechhh from United States
18 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Normally, I don't enjoy movies based on true stories, but this one is an exception.

The gritty, dark, dirty, and violent depiction of the favelas was great and I really got a good feel of the slums.

The intro sequence, I feel, should have been left out, as it helped give me the solace and knowledge that the main character was alive and free from death throughout the whole movie.

Characterization and acting were great and it really showed how dark and evil it can get in these areas.

Also, what I thought was great was the ending where they show a new rise of youngsters ready to step up into the world of crime, thus indicating the existing cycle of violence which was to continue.

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