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"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.
'City of God' was a visceral epic, a tale of the slummification of a Brazillian new suburb and the consequences of this story for the lives of those who lived there. 'City of Men' is a loose sort of follow up, with a different director, and it's a lesser film, without Fernando Meirelles' scintillating direction. More than anything else, the story suffers because its protagonists are so clearly innocents caught up in events beyond their control; while it's still an effective portrayal of the harshness of life in the favella, it lacks the sense of individual responsibility that is usually a necessary part of the most powerful drama. Which is not to say that it's a bad film, making good use of the dramatic setting of Rio de Janeiro, and conveying well not just the brutality, but also the fragility, of a life lived at the margins.
"City of Men" is a feature film version of a blockbuster series that
ran on Brazilian TV from 2002 to 2005. It is also a sequel of sorts to
the earlier "City of God," an award-winning movie directed by Fernando
Paul Morelli's "City of Men" focuses on Laranjinha (Darlan Cunha) and Acerola (Douglas Silva), two honorable teens who are struggling to make a decent life for themselves in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The former is searching for the father he's never known, while the latter is only beginning to learn what it means to be a father to his own son. Their personal story is set against the backdrop of a violent turf-war between two rival gangs that are battling it out for preeminence in the city.
"City of Men" reveals its origins as a TV series in the novelistic approach it takes to storytelling and character development. From the beginning, we feel as if we have been thrust into the midst of a story "already in progress." With little explanatory background, the screenplay (by Elena Soarez) introduces us all at once to a multiplicity of characters, whose relationships with one another we are forced to pick up almost on the fly as it were. This allows us to become both an observer of and an active participant in the drama that unfolds.
Certainly, one of the most important characters in the movie is the city itself, since it is this very environment of poverty, hopelessness and violence that, in large measure, determines the kinds of lives these people will lead and the types of futures they will have.
Morelli's directorial style is up-close-and-personal in the more intimate moments, and vivid and exciting in the pulse-pounding "action" sequences. The sense of immediacy that he and cinematographer Adriano Goldman bring to the work acts as an effective counterweight to some of the more melodramatic elements that creep into the screenplay towards the end.
With excellent performances and a surprising amount of optimism given its generally depressing milieu and setting, "City of Men" is a tale of friendship and adult responsibility that will move the spirit and touch the heart.
Having not seen 'Cidade de Deus' nor the original TV series of which
this movie is a continuation, as a stand alone I found 'Cidade dos
Homens' to be quite satisfying. It kept me hooked from start to finish.
Paula Morelli also gives great attention to detail and captures the
local life in Rio de Janeiro quite realistically. With the backdrop of
a local gang war, at the core of the film lies the friendship between
Laranjinha and Acerola. Their friendship is put to test when the
gangwar erupts and the identities of their fathers are discovered.
The cinematography is mostly done with a hand-held digital camera that gives a spacious feel while also stressing on the dense mazelike streets of the hills. The lighting stresses on the heavy heat of Rio de Janeiro. Music also works well with the story. The overall acting is very good with young actor Douglas Silva topping the cast.
'Cidade De Deus' has heart and the strength lies in the storytelling. The portrayal of corruption and poverty in Brasil is effectively portrayed. It shows how people are surviving everyday and how even the smallest 'mistake' can risk losing their lives.
At times this movie is very powerful and really makes the reality of
Brazil's slums come alive. The characters struggle with broken families
and shattered dreams, and join gangs because there are few other
realistic options. Even though the film is fictional, it is sad to see
because there is truth behind it.
At other times the movie feels very ham-handed, as the characters deal with themes that have been in many movies before. Fathers who come back, sons who push against them. Most of the characters are not well-defined and lack depth and motivation.
I would recommend the movie, but it is not as good as some other Brazilian films about life in the favelas, namely City of God.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
While the world is aware of City Of God, it's TV spin off finale on the big screen is less wordily, and as our characters are defined by the favelas and roles found there, their plot is caged in by the need for a TV summary. That being laid out does not take away from the bold finale, its' bing filmed in Rocina, the beautiful dichotomy of Rio's favelas atop the glorious beaches with the Dois Irmaos creating an intoxicating view which can never be lived up to into reality. Our actors do their best, but our king of the hill and his number two split over nothing and yet everyone knows a war is on? How is this possible? How are we viewers to then move forward with lost and found fathers who also have a life altering history? Ech characters story viewed separately makes for good TV episodes, but sewn together on the big screen is hard to digest. Loved the use of older footage where most movies create something that we have to try hard top believe, here, an inherited audience was held at bay by the handcuffs of aggressive plot lines. Thank god I'm still passionate enough about Brasil to look past this to enjoy a picturesque favela gangster movie with lesser expectations than those hooked on the show.
I remember when I first saw this movie in 2008, I walked into it
heavily comparing it with "City of God" and expecting to see the same
fast-pace storytelling, same witty dialogue and same amount of violence
C.O.G. had. About 30 minutes into this movie I started to realize that
this movie was a completely different animal, although with many of the
same actors and same director serving as one of the executive
producers. Needless to say, I walked out of this movie heavily
disappointed. Fast forward to six years later, the movie is now out of
Netflix and by now I have had more than my fair share of Brazilian
reality-based films such as "Elite Squad" and "Elite Squad 2" among
other Brazilian films which take place in the infamous Rio favelas.
After watching it a second time and taking it for what it is, I now
appreciate the art of this movie much more.
The movie touches not only on poverty but also on young unplanned parenthood, the responsibilities and obligations that come with it, on different types of loyalty and betrayal, forgiveness of oneself and others and it shows you the true meaning of friendship. Rather than focusing on the violent setting itself and on carnage and violence like C.O.G. did, those things take a backseat and the movie shows you the real people who inhabit the favelas. It's a story of friendship, survival, and the choices people make when they don't have a choice.
I am not familiar with the TV series, as I never got a chance to watch a single episode, but I can tell that this movie faithfully and successfully translated the story to the silver screen while keeping the essence of the original characters. If you like true slice of life dramas, City of Men surely delivers the goods.
Overall I give City of Men 8 out of 10.
I've been mesmerized by the TV Show City of God and it was clear that i
must see the movie that would end it. Well, i haven't been
Within the surroundings we've seen in the TV show, there is a lot of going on. Laranjinha, Acerola and their friends are growing up. Madrugadão has everything under control, or so he thinks as the appetite of some of his gang members grows.
A lot of unexpected things will occur, but favela will witness silently as they all come and go. In a way this is a logical ending of the TV show. Some characters strive to exit favela and some succeed while others merely exit their lives.
This is the follow-up to one of my favourite films, City of God (2002).
It continues the theme of life in the poorer parts of Rio and takes a
closer look at how things are today. I really enjoyed it, although it
doesn't have the depth of 'City of God', I still found the simple
storytelling quite refreshing. I had better warn those scared of
subtitles that it is in Portuguese with the dreaded words at the bottom
of the screen. Here's a brief summary before I give you my thoughts.
Two friends, Acerola and Laranjinha are turning eighteen. Acerola is already married and has a son, Clayton. Laranjinha is less than content because he doesn't know who his father is. They both live on 'Dead End Hill', an area that is run by a gang lead by a character known as Midnight. Whilst talking about their plight one day a plan is hatched to discover just who Laranjinha's father is. They ask around and eventually get a lead, but I think it would be giving too much away if I told you any more about this. Meanwhile, one of Midnight's lieutenants defects to another gang and they decide they want to move into 'Dead End Hill'. Who will survive? Will Laranjinha find his father? As you can probably guess, I'm not going to tell you here of the Spoiler Police will be finding my corpse in the quarry.
Beautifully shot, I love the grainy look and feel to this film. It's almost like it was filmed on a home movie camera in places, but it still has a professional feel to it. Although it's quite hard to judge a performance in a foreign language, I must give praise to the young leads; Douglas Silva as Acerola and Darlan Cunha as Laranjinha. I thought they were both excellent.
This film will always be compared to 'City of God', but it doesn't have the epic scope of that film. Instead it is more compact and because of that it's much easier to identify with the characters. There are little flashbacks to when the boys were younger that is a neat way of bringing the audience closer to the story. Over all, it's a nice simple drama that has some really nice touches. I know it's not had a great deal of exposure, but it's certainly one I can recommend, particularly if you enjoyed 'City of God'. You can probably tell I really enjoyed this one.
My Score: 8.6/10.
IMDb Score: 7.2/10 (based on 6,016 votes at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76/100 (based on 79 reviews counted at the time of going to press).
The Rio de Janeiro landscape is nothing if not dramatic. The topography
of the sprawling metropolis seems to be entirely in tune with the
eclectic urban population that call it home. Pointed mountains are
peppered across the landscape, and in a city where real estate
struggles to meet the demands of overpopulation, many of their slopes
have been cannibalized for residence. In many cases, they stand as
monuments to Rio's enormous economic divide, being given over to
crumbling, haphazard shanty towns known locally as 'favelas', often
no-go areas for the authorities and the dominions therefore for the
self-imposed fiefdoms of street gangs. In 'City Of Men', the audience
is given a window into the lives of these would-be rulers and the
struggling locals unfortunate enough to be caught up in their affairs.
The wider storyline, taking place primarily on the marvellously-subtle 'Dead End Hill', concerns a power struggle between gang leader Madrugadao (translated as 'Midnight' in my subtitles), disgruntled members of his group and rival gangs on nearby hills with plans to take over his territory. Caught in the middle of all this are the film's two lead characters, Acerola and Laranjinha, friends since childhood and now facing the burdens of adulthood. Driven by a shared quest to find out the identity of their long-lost fathers, they discover that the past is sometimes better left buried. The drama brings into sharp focus the personal tragedies inevitable in such an environment: children with no future drawn into gangs, the almost-impossible struggle to raise a family, and the ever-present spectre of death in a world ruled by jungle law. Yet through the close bond forged between the two friends, the fragile flames of friendship and loyalty may be just enough to help them escape the chaos.
One of 'City Of Men's strongest assets is its visual authenticity, having been shot at least partially on location at a genuine shanty town, which communicates the desperation and poverty of the world its characters inhabit with instant verisimilitude and sadness. The winding narrow streets stretching up Dead End Hill (or 'Morro da Sinuca' in the original) cut through faded blocks of sloppily-bonded iron and brick, inside which the simple and aged cheap detritus of the population offer silent indication as to the tiny fortunes and aspirations of each individual. The hill is a world apart from the wealth and stability far below, as though natural geography itself has drawn the line between them. Despite its dilapidated state and the aura of human misery, even this corner of the city manages to be picturesque. Cinematographer Adriano Goldman has striven to capture every angle of this world in all its mottled shades and succeeded brilliantly.
Robust too is the acting. Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha as Acerola and Laranjinha respectively, do not fail to convince as the two orphans thrust together by hardship and circumstance, inhabiting their characters with ease. So too do the rest of the cast, and also notable is Pedro Henrique as Caju, the glory-seeking youth unwaveringly keen to do his bit for Dead End Hill and not at all fazed by his first firearm.
It was not until after viewing the film that I learned 'City Of Men' is actually the concluding chapter to the popular Brazilian television series of the same name, in which we see the aforementioned characters presented here at an earlier time in their lives. Indeed, the film often flashes back to scenes from the series in order to establish the longstanding friendship between the two leads. It is not, in addition, connected to the more famous exploration along similar themes, 'City Of God', which apparently sets many up for disappointment. 'City Of Men', it turns out, is the concluding chapter to the series, with a built-in audience of fans who have travelled with the cast for several years.
Which is doubtless the ideal way to approach the film, for taken on its own without any background knowledge or emotion invested in the characters, 'City Of Men' offers little in the way of original storytelling, being ultimately a fairly straightforward gangster drama with a fairly predictable ending. While its wonderfully-captured visuals have left a lasting impression with me, the unremarkable plot already fades into memory with little to stop it. Director and series writer Paulo Morelli, and scriptwriter and fellow series scribe Elena Soaraz have presented a screenplay that provides the newcomer with all the background information required to jump into their world without difficulty. The result is more than entertaining enough for the duration, but says nothing new as a film in its own right. For the fans though, 'City Of Men' will be a fond farewell to beloved characters, and the nostalgia value will be enough to take it to the next level. It just doesn't work quite so well as a stand-alone picture.
I would recommend therefore that interested parties avail themselves of the series if at all possible and hold off on 'City Of Men' until the end, which will doubtless prove more rewarding. While the film can be viewed separately, and is worth it alone for the cinematography, it will fail to resonate in the say way it does for its most ardent supporters.
Actual rating 6 1/2 out of 10.
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