Best buddies Acerola and Laranjinha, about to turn 18, discover things about their missing fathers' pasts which will shatter their solid friendship, in the middle of a war between rival drug gangs from Rio's favelas.
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In the slum in Morro da Sinuca, a couple of days before turning eighteen year-old, Laranjinha tells his best friend and also orphan Acerola that he misses his unknown father. Acerola decides to help his needy friend to find his father and they discover that he is in prison convicted for killing a man during a robbery and near to be released on parole. Meanwhile, Acerola's wife and babysitter Cris is invited to work in São Paulo and she sees the chance to raise money to buy a house of her own; she tells Acerola that he must take care of their son Clayton alone for one year. When the owner of the hill and Laranjinha's cousin Madrugadão is betrayed by his right-hand Nefasto, he is expelled from the slum and Laranjinha and Acerola have also to leave the hill. While Madrugadão plots a plan to invade and recover the hill with the support of the gang of the drug lord from Morro do Careca, Acerola and Laranjinha unravel the past of their fathers. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
"Poverty, to be picturesque, should be rural. Suburban misery is as hideous as it is pitiable." Anthony Trollope
Whew! I'm out of breath following youth gangs in the favela of Rio as they fight for a city hill as if they were in WWII's Pork Chop battle. Machine guns rule; women do not (contrary to the stereotype of matriarchal Latin society). It may not be City of God, the frenetic precursor using two of the same actors, but it has the Battle of Algiers' claustrophobia, which had a better-appointed Kasbah yet the same feeling of people darting around corners to avoid ever present Death.
The two central characters, teenage boys trying to keep their friendship and families in tact while around them chaos rules, veer between themselves and annihilation as they fight off the temptation to carry weapons like their friends yet can't find a way to survive without guns. There is more, however, than just gang warfare because sub-textually director/writer Paulo Morelli identifies a root cause of the dislocationsabsentee fathers. (Heck, even the current Spiderwick uses this powerful ingredient.) Much of the film is dedicated to one of the boys finding his father and the other coming to terms with the murder of his. While the former is adequately explored, the latter could have used much more explanation for the boy's suddenly joining the gang's war. Could it have been the murder of his father? I can't tell you.
The requisite hillside shots of the Rio harbor help the figurative contrast between the rich Brazilian scenery and the squalor of the barrio. Both conditions, of course, help to emphasize the globally accurate distance between the have's and the have not's, a condition the present economic global downturn is exacerbating. City of Men is a city of all men, racing through the labyrinth of life trying to survive, and losing.
City of God is a movie that contradicts its name; City of Men is spot onGod help us.
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