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Justice League 1900 - extremely ordinary guys and a gal
In the twilight months of the 19th Century a madman known as `The Phantom' kidnaps the brightest minds of the time to develop the next generation of weapons. Using this newfound arsenal, this evildoer carries out a series of attacks calculated to both the plunge the world's superpowers into a global conflict and produce a market ripe for arms dealing. A group of `heroes' - each with his or her own special talents - dubbed the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, is drawn together to halt the impending cataclysm. As with all intrigue, some things are not what they seem, and betrayal is an essential element of the game.
Unlike `The Hulk' or `Daredevil' - well-known comic heroes with a long lineage - `The`League of Extraordinary Gentlemen' is a graphic novel, a niche market in the comic biz. While the title may not spark instant recognition, the characters within undoubtedly will, drawn as they are from literature: Allan Quartermain, Mina Harrker, and Dr. Jekyll but to name a few. The movie, however bears only passing resemblance to Alan Moore's graphic novel and includes `extra' characters that appear to have been added to give an American angle (to boost potential box office?)
If you enjoy watching Sean Connery manhandle people, then you will be well served: not since his days as Bond, James Bond (the one, the only in my humble opinion) has Connery kicked this much butt. As crusty Allan Quartemain, Connery is truly in his element, delivering gruff lines and flippant humor (`My, that was naughty') almost single-handedly carrying the film. Peta Wilson is appealing as Mina Harker, the devoted wife turned vamp by none other than the toothy Transylvanian Count. Detemrined to be a force for serving good, she's not averse to stopping for a snack if the situation presents itself (while Buffy might not approve they are bad guys after all aren't they?). Stuart Townsend is dashing and debonair as Dorian Grey, but, much like the film itself, lacks any real substance.
TLOEG (you try typing the title a few times.) suffers because there is so little to it: the story is weak, rambling and ultimately fails to stimulate your interest. This is exacerbated by characters that don't mesh well, or simply don't make sense (sorry, but accepting Tom Sawyer as a Secret Service agent is up there with believing in Santa Claus, and responsible government), lame, lifeless dialogue, and special effects that are of notoriously variable quality. Add misguided uber villains, horribly telegraphed surprises and an abysmal attempt at a sequel inspiring ending and there is little to root for.
If you are a huge fan of the graphic novel, you'll undoubtedly be hugely disappointed. If not, why bother at all?
Matinee it at your own risk.
Abandon all misgivings ye who enter
Say `Pirate Movie' in a crowded theater and you're likely to be facing a mutiny or a stampede, and for good reason: the rollicking adventures popularized by Robert Louis Stevenson and brought to life by Errol Flynn have, of late been replaced by overblown soulless drivel along the lines of Polanski's `Pirates' or `Cutthroat Island'. Jerry Bruckheimer and Johnny Depp to the rescue.
Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) is quite likely the unluckiest pirate alive: after having suffered the ignominy of mutiny and being marooned, he finds his way to port in the one town that has a serious hate on for pirates. If that weren't enough to spoil his already bad day, Sparrow is thrown back into the fray when he promises young Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) that he will help rescue Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), the young woman kidnapped by Sparrow's old enemies. Oh, and there's that pesky little curse to contend with
Let me state from the outset - this is a fantastic movie that epitomizes what a summer movie should be. It features oodles of action both in the form of swashbuckling sword fights and big time explosions, is packed full of accessible humor, boasts great special effects (note: not gratuitous), has beautiful and eerie locations, nasty villains, reformed heroes and fantastic performances. Am I making it clear that I liked this movie?
Orlando Bloom is solidly low key in his first post `Lord of the Rings' outing, and makes good use of the martial skills he leaned while filming the trilogy. His character is equal parts tragic and noble, and he balances these the facets well. While Elizabeth could be rightly classified as the obligatory damsel-in-distress of the piece, she most certainly is not helpless Knightley brings the same determined empowerment that she displayed in `Bend it Like Beckham'. You have to give props to any woman who can act and kick butt while bound in a corset and frilly fluffy dresses (and yet somehow manages to look even more beautiful while doing so forgive me, I'm only human ). Geoffrey Rush is deliciously devilish as Captain Barossa the dark hearted scoundrel of the piece, the, who dispenses death the with a smile. You know he's bad just by looking at the man's teeth! And then there's the Depp factor.
Johnny Depp could long ago have been a major Hollywood star he certainly has the charisma, the drive and enough talent for a few careers however he's made a conscious decision to stick with character driven films, which are often only found in artsy or edgy films. Thankfully he chose to tackle this role with the same fervor Depp is hilarious as John Sparrow, the glib roguish pirate cursed with a streak of goodness and bad luck, who seemingly dances between madness and lucidity. To say that his portrayal binds the film would not be indulging in hyperbole, as he brings all the elements of the story and the characters together. Is that all there is you might ask? Not even close.
****Okay, I'm going to give you a warning here if you haven't seen the trailers some potential spoilers lay ahead****.
The CGI work in this films is remarkable on several fronts: the film does not rely upon them, they are not excessive and they actually enhance the film. The characters' transition from human to skeleton and back (there sequences are rapid and many) are amazingly fluid and realistic. Need more? The swordfighting are beautifully choreographed, the city sets are brilliant, the pyrotechnics in the battle scenes are pure Buckheimer (read: big, loud, and many) and the film is also fit for the youngsters.
If you're in the market for a film that will appeal to anyone between the ages of 5 to 95 , look no further.
Pure silliness wide open!
The summer movie season runs the gamut of ideas with something for everyone, from insightful dramas, to multimillion dollar CGI showcases, or sequels to the movies that you enjoyed in summers past. But when you're looking for something that will help you forget the stress of your everyday life there's nothing better than a brainless popcorn flick with lots of flash (both pyrotechnic and skin).
When two special rings (they hold an important secret) are stolen and about to be auctioned off to the highest bidders, the Angels - Natalie, Dylan and Alex - are called into action. In their mission to recover the rings, they discover that one member of the group has been harboring a hidden secret, and that a former superstar Angel may have played a part in the heist.
The trio of film Angels have returned for the sequel: Cameron Diaz is even ditzier as Natalie the pretty dork, Drew Barrymore's tough gal Dylan continues her track record of bad choices, and Lucy Liu is back with a passion as gorgeous bombshell Alex. The trio works well together and obviously have fun with the roles as evidenced by their onscreen chemistry and humorous outtakes. Bernie Mac takes over the role of Bosley from Bill Murray and infuses the film with its best humour via a series of solid one liners and visual gages. Supplying the villainy is a collection of ne'er do wells capped by Demi Moore as the deliciously evil Madison, a former Angel with a seriously bad attitude (and damn if she still doesn't look incredible in a bikini!).
Full Throttle distinguishes itself as the film that takes the concept of over-the-top over-the top: there is nothing subtle about anything in this film - the dialogue sounds like it was spit out by a computer, the plot is predictable, and the jokes are juvenile. It also includes numerous shameless cameos (Eve, Pink, the Olsen twins, and an original Angel to name a few), blatantly steals scenes from the classics, and parodies popular tv shows. And so what? Original doesn't always mean better.
The soundtrack is loud and all over the musical map showcasing thrash, techno, classic headbanger rock and love ballads which match both the flow and spirit of the film. The insane action sequences border on the surreal - the motocross chase was hands down the best I've seen in years and the fight scenes are simply smoother versions of the worst Hong Kong chop sockey movies. And let's not forget the ladies - the producers pushed the ratings envelope with acres of near nudity, (don't worry ladies, there's some buff beefcake for you as well) including some saucy sequences with a touch of light S&M.
Please note: this is not a film you go to see if you want to be enlightened or admire solid moviemaking. But if you're in the mood for some silly escape, get your Gobstoppers and pull up a chair.
The Good Thief (2002)
Nolte finds his niche
When lady luck and sister morphine just aren't the companions they used to be, Bob Montagnet (Nick Nolte), gentleman crook and do-gooder nudges up against rock bottom. Busted and in hock, he needs to get back into the game, but he knows that the risk has to be worth the reward: if he gets busted once more, he'll be living the low life in a none too quaint French penitentiary. Complicating matters is Bob's reputation his recent stint as junkie-gambler notwithstanding, his status as jewel thief extraordinaire has earned him his very own police shadow. Throw in a street smart waif, a couple vengeance clichees, a convoluted plan and the necessary Judas for a little cross/doublecross and things start to get interesting.
Years of substance abuse, a recent run of bad luck and a voice that sounds like he's got the world's longest running case of strep throat may not be in Nick Nolte's best interests as a person. It does however give him a distinct advantage when tackling the character of Bob, as Nolte doesn't have to delve too deep for the source material. He is surprisingly suave despite his rough edges, which makes Bob's transformation all the more credible. Aside from the personal failings, Bob is a solid human being which makes the audience root for him.
The supporting cast works well as a whole, due to an ease and familiarity in their interactions, which in turn helps the story flow. This meshing of minds is distilled to its purest form in the scenes with Nolte and Tchéky Karyo, the inspector out to nab Bob. Their exchanges are so smooth and natural- from their facial expressions and body language to their zingers and pithy asides - that it's easy to accept them as friends who are simply improvving their dialogue. There are, however, some notable problems with the story.
Most annoying for me was the anemic subplot with Ralph Fiennes as an `art entrepreneur'. A poor contrivance that adds nothing to the story it becomes an annoying vanity cameo that adds nothing to the film (and don't even get me started on his little I-want-to-be- Rafe-not-Ralf petulance ). I can only assume that the continuous use of freeze frame shots were intended to be dramatic or artistic, but fail on both levels, and quickly become an annoyance (I thought that there was a problem with the projector the first two times it happened). The biggest sin however is the plot while Neil Jordan tries to infuse the film with suspense his delivery is worse than a drunken street mime. Consequently the little plot twists and parallel storylines fall flat.
In spite of great dialogue, solid acting and an eclectic cast of characters, `The Good Thief' ultimately falls victim to a predictable plot. Not even the mini homage to `The Crying Game' could rise above it. Wait for it on the small screen it probably won't take too long.
Phone Booth (2002)
One ringy dingy.
Anyone who doubts that people are as easily programmable as Pavlov's pets need look no further Graham Bell's little box. While most of us generally don't start salivating at the sound of a ringing phone, few people (unless they work for a software help desk) can resist the urge to answer one. Pray that the darkest force that dials your number is a telemarketer.
For Stu Shephard, sincerity is little more than a fuzzy concept. A shady publicist, his life consists of spinning interconnecting webs of lies to further the careers of clients and raise his stature. In his spare time he enjoys abusing his assistant, and ignoring his wife. Stu is, is also determined to give an impressionable young actress a test run on the casting couch. When he enters the one functioning pay phone in a ten-block radius in the hopes of setting up a liaison, the phone rings. It turns out to be Stu's conscience on the line. With a sniper rifle aimed at Stu's head.
When you take into account that `Phone Booth' was filmed in just ten days, on a limited budget with a dearth of special effects, one principle actor and a single venue you could be forgiven for questioning the potential success of this film. The original November 2001 release date might give one pause - films that sit on the shelf usually do so for a reason - read `straight to video'. In this instance the studio wanted to wait until Farrell was more familiar to moviegoers. He achieved this with a little film called `Minority Report' (the name of his co-star escapes me at the moment...). `Phone Booth's' new release date had to be pushed back once again after the sniping episodes in Washington. Some things are worth the wait.
While he stole the spotlight as the maniacal hit man in `Daredevil', Farrell is faced with a different animal in `Phone Booth', an 80-minute soliloquy which lives or dies on his performance (several A-list stars walked away from the project for this very reason). Reminiscent of his much-lauded turn in `Tigerland', Farrell confirms that he isn't a one trick pony, proffering a wide-ranging display of emotions, from cocky to cathartic without straying into soap opera or comic territory. He delivers his lines with a solid fluidity rare among his peers, no simple feat when one takes into account that he's suppressing a harsh brogue. Farrell also demonstrates a presence, beyond mere charisma - his good looks can only inspire interest for so long - that draw the viewer into the story.
While the supporting cast - Katie Holmes as the naive ingenue and Forrest Whitaker as the good cop - fulfill their purpose, it is Keifer Sutherland who takes up what little slack there is. While the audience doesn't get to see Sutherland, he is amply menacing as the cold, otherworldly voice on the other end of the phone. The audience is never privy to who he is (`Just call me Bob') or what his motives are, but it is inconsequential - he sees all, knows all, and is clearly in charge. Unlike S&M, there are no safe words. And for a control freak like Stu nothing could be more terrifying.
Although tied to a static location, deft camera work provides action, perspective and mood with such techniques as quick pans, compressed zooming, and picture in picture sequences, while careful not to cross the gimmickry line . Enhanced sound editing bolsters the visuals: ringing phones are jarring, Bob's quietly booming voice is unsettling, and the sound of a round being chambered is deafening.
`Phone Booth' could easily have been a quirky novelty flick that played well amongst the art house set. Thanks to Farrell's performance it makes for good mainstream cinema (normally an oxymoron) and may actually make a few top ten lists.
Tears of the Sun (2003)
From tears of boredom to tears of laughter
One would be hard pressed to find a medium that has not glorified the institution of war. It has credited with turning boys into men, spurring economic and social revolutions, and delivering the oppressed from enslavement. Amazingly, the downsides destruction, famine and of course death often get overlooked. It wasn't until Oliver Stone's `Platoon' hit the big screen that laymen got a glimpse into the real ugliness of war. I remember an interview with a Vietnam Vet who after seeing a preview screening of "Platoon" stated (I'm paraphrasing) `If I had seen this instead of `The Green Berets' I never would have gone to Vietnam in search of heroism.' Hopefully this generation will not have to learn this lesson first hand.
When a violent coup pushes Nigeria to the brink of civil war, Lieutenant AK Water (Willis) and his crew of navy SEALS are sent in to extract Lena Hendricks (Belluci), an American doctor doing missionary work in the country. Dr. Hendricks is reluctant to leave her charges, and demands that they also be evacuated, leading to a cross country race to escape the vicious hordes of the rebel army.
The timing of this film's release is quite fitting given the prevailing global climate, but don't worry I'm not about to launch into a polemic about international events, this is a movie review after all. Suffice it to say I'm sure the distributor is counting on this to stimulate some box office. That's about the only thing that will save this film.
The first thing that struck me was that although `Tears of the Sun' is being billed as an action film, it plods along at a snails pace for the first hour and fifteen minutes. The movie also embodies everything that can go wrong with a war film: it is jingoistic, filled with scowling stock villains, is nonsensically simplistic reducing everything to black and white and limps along with ridiculous dialogue eg. After Willis' character is slashed with a machete and blood is literally flowing down his hand he dismisses attempts to help him saying `Don't worry I'm okay.' Let's not forget the classic disposable armies we're expected to accept that in spite of vastly superior numbers and firepower, the enemy soldiers are notoriously poor shots losing at least a hundred soldiers for every good guy that bites the dust. There's also the genocide - or should I say "ethnic cleansing" to help offend your moral senses.
Even if I could get past all these failings, I can't forgive the crux of the story, that Waters' epiphany that leads him a dedicated and stoic soldier's soldier -to countermand a direct order. Normally this would earn one a court martial and an all expenses paid trip to Leavenworth to turn big rocks into little rocks. In this case however, even though he essentially sparks a war and unnecessarily risks the lives of his men, he still gets the girl, the glory and hero's homecoming. It boggles the mind.
I was going to address the performances, but what is there left to say? I've always enjoyed Bruce Willis whether he was being self-mocking in `Die Hard' or serious in `The Sixth Sense'. Unfortunately he is forced to utter some of the most ridiculous dialogue I've heard in a long time and his attempts to sound dramatic come off as cartoonish. His co-stars fare no better.
I can't leave without mentioning two screw-ups that I couldn't help dwell on: first how is it that the SEAL's facial camouflage magically disappears (the only time I tried it it took forever to wash off); second despite rain, sweat, and tramping through jungle foliage and muck Belucci's character's lipstick is always perfectly applied.
I dare you to pay full price!
Back in the dark ages BT (Before Television), when kids walked ten miles uphill both ways to school there were limited entertainment options. One of the cheapest avenues of escape was the comic book: often crudely drawn, with simple storylines they provided a pleasant diversion without all that pesky reading. Their success continued on the small screen - who could forget the campy 60's Batman with its ubiquitous Biffs! and Kapows! - but their transition to the big screen was definitely hit or miss. While comic to screen films like Batman did boffo box office they spawned a legion of comic megabombs like Howard the Duck and The Punisher, and superheroes dropped off the studios' radar. It would take more than a decade for the quirky X-Men to rejuvenate the genre, and inspire A-list actors and directors to jump back on the bandwagon.
When a freak accident robbed Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) of his sight it also enhanced his remaining senses and allowed him to `see' in a whole new way. A lawyer by trade, Murdock lives a dual life, defending the disadvantaged, and in the guise of DareDevil, meting out his own brand of justice for those thugs that live beyond the reach of the law. His solitary existence is shattered when he meets the beautiful Elektra a strong willed kindred spirit with a secret. Alas, hero bliss is usually short-lived.
Daredevil is a unique character in the comic universe, as he possesses neither classical superpowers (he can't fly or change shape) nor is he a reclusive billionaire who can buy all kinds of really cool gadgets. He also doesn't fit in the everyman category as he belongs to a group that is classically considered disadvantaged. I believe it is these very distinctions that led to his tenure as a hero, because readers find it much easier to relate to his character. Luckily Daredevil won't be seeing this movie anytime soon.
Fleshing out a comic book character onscreen is a delicate balancing act between humor and drama - stray too far in either direction and what you're left with is parody .Ben Affleck often pegged as Hollywood's next big leading man, plays Murdock with soft-spoken amiability, providing a character that audiences will easily accept. If only he devoted the same attention to the character's alter ego. Every time Affleck dons the mask he slips into melodrama delivering his lines with such overblown self-importance and mock menace that they simply fall flat - several serious scenes spawned outbursts of laughter. The supporting cast offers equally mixed performances.
Jennifer Garner is disarming as the beautiful Elektra, simultaneously delicate and deadly. Garner demonstrates remarkable screen presence which begs the question why wasn't her character more thoroughly developed? If we knew a little more about Elektra it would have given some much needed balance to the story. Instead, Electra is essentially reduced to window dressing. Pity. This also extends to the big villain of the piece: in spite of his menacing physical presence, Michael Clarke Duncan is tepid as Kingpin, hampered both by poor writing and pedestrian delivery. Audiences are supposed to hate the bad guy. The most I could muster was apathy. Mercifully Colin Farrell rises to the challenge as Bullseye, the maniacal Irish hitman who can turn anything into a weapon. Farrell's over the top portrayal also helps to infuse the film with some intentionally humorous moments (his mini tantrum elicited ongoing laughter from those who could decipher his thick brogue).
I could dwell at length on the noticeable plot gaps (like how is it that a blind orphan would develop preternatural acrobatic abilities and fighting skills with no training?), the dark setting, or the none too subtle ironies (Daredevil seeking refuge in a church), - but let's be honest, no one's going for the story. Thankfully there are several well choreographed fight sequences (courtesy of Cheung Yan Yuen of Matrix fame) to help distract the viewer from these piddling details. Although Affleck noticeably stumbles a few times, Garner's movements are virtually flawless, no doubt honed during her time on Alias. Nothing like a leather clad bombshell kicking butt to keep you mesmerized (works for me anyways). Mix in some above average (and sparingly used) fluid CGI for added eye candy, an energetic soundtrack, and a few comic creator cameos and you're left with a mediocre watchable popcorn flick. Just don't hold your breath for the sequel.
The Bay of Love and Sorrows (2002)
The sorrow is in the watching.
Marketing a film can be just as important as making it fail to publicize it properly, and people may not hear about it, or you might miss the demographic you're aiming for. The print ad for The Bay of Love and Sorrows features a dark-haired beauty staring out with a brooding look and an enigmatic half smile, yet gives no hint of what the film could be about. The ad is also peppered with several vague testimonials and, try as you might, you probably won't recognize the sources (they would do as well to quote the Sheboygan Bugle or Gnome Gazette). Luckily for the marketing department, they won't have to shoulder all the blame when this film fails to dazzle at the box office.
Based on the much-beloved book (or so I'm told) of the same name by David Adams Richards, The Bay of Love and Sorrows is set in 1970's New Brunswick, Newcastle to be precise. The story follows several young people who've been unable to improve on their lot in life post high school: there is the sexy and rugged Madonna, who, along with her sheepish brother Silver survives on menial jobs and a bit of poaching, conservative Tom who tries to make ends meet on his dirt farm while he watches his `special' brother Vincent, and Tom's innocent down home girl Carrie. The tempo of their boring lives change when Michael, the world travelling son of a judge (apparently only the rich kids have parents) comes back to town with tales of exotic locales. Enter the scheming ex-con Everette (who may as well have been named Iago) and chaos ensues.
It's hard not to root for an underdog believe me when I say I tried. Unfortunately there simply isn't anything about this film that makes the viewer sit up and take notice- in a good way that is: the dialogue lacks spark, the pacing is positively glacial, the characters are poorly (if ever) developed and the acting is average at the best of times. The story itself is an ongoing game of one-upmanship, with each new plot element more far fetched and melodramatic that the last, culminating in the violent disorganized mess that is the final act. Save yourself some sorrow and find another film.
The Recruit (2003)
Still in training...
Over twenty five hundred years ago, Sun Tzu, author of the seminal work The Art of War, wrote that `Spies are a most important element in war ' Every wise ruler since then, whether monarch, despot or elected has hearkened to these words. The cat-and-mouse spy game reached it's nadir during the Cold War when thousands of undercover operatives spanned the globe, trying to gather information, spread disinformation and sow discord where they could. With the fall of the Wall, many of these geopolitical gamers were assigned desk duty, only to be reactivated when the post 9-11 world brought their skill sets back into vogue.
James Clayton (Colin Farrel) and his colleagues have designed an innovative communications software program that could revolutionize the computer industry and make them rich. It also brings James to the attention of one Walter Burke (Al Pacino), a spook recruiter for the CIA. Burke tells James that he has the perfect combination of attitude and aptitude to be a great operative. Burke also alludes to possible information relating to the disappearance of James' father, who may or may not have worked for `the Company' leaving James with a no-brainer choice: go for the sure thing, which promises wealth and security, or opt for a life lived in the shadows, marked by danger and double crosses. And the winner is
One of the main attractions for this film is the subject matter - who isn't curious about the recruitment and training of the best and brightest spooks who act as the first line of defense in global intrigue (I think they're on our side)? The answer to the first part of that question is quite facile the CIA holds recruitment drives on university campuses (applications have risen over 300% in the past year) . The training is more intriguing, running the gamut from explosives deployment to learning to disguise oneself in both actions and mannerisms.
In order to ensure accuracy in their depictions, the filmmakers went to the source - CIA spokesperson Chase Brandon (a covert agent for 25 years) provided basic information on the induction and molding of recruits, as well as location stills from Langley . In true CIA fashion Brandon acknowledged that the training takes place at a clandestine location that he could ` neither confirm or deny exists'. A helpful fellow that Brandon.
The Recruit has several things going for it: a slick marketing campaign, the timeliness of the subject matter, and bankable talent that appeals to a wide demographic. Colin Farrell, in all his perpetual five o-clock shadow glory is not only a hit with the women (of all ages apparently, having been linked to both Demi Moore and Britney Spears in the past month) he's cut his teeth on several solid roles. For the boys in the audience we have the statuesque Bridget Moynahan, probably best known as Mr Big's wife on Sex In the City. Finally there is Al Pacino, the consummate actor, known for his intense portrayals of many a hero and villains. How could this film possibly go wrong?
Even with a collective pool of talent, elaborate set design and solid camerawork there isn't enough story to sustain The Recruit. The script is uneven, and flat leaving the actors with little of substance, and the film's pacing is sporadic, changing tempo too often without reason. The relationship between Farrell's and Moynahan's characters is poorly developed, and they lack chemistry I'm not a CIA agent and I sure as hell didn't buy it. Also, any sense of suspense is destroyed by repeatedly hammering home the notions that you can `Trust no one' and `Nothing is what it seems' leaving little doubt as to what will happen next.
Ultimately, what could have been a suspenseful thriller ends up being an exercise in banality, wasting the talents and efforts of those involved. A wholly average film it's worth the cost of a rental if you're left with nothing to do on a Tuesday night.
Cidade de Deus (2002)
Scarface goes to Rio.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you nothing, you do what you can. For the inhabitants of Cidade de Deus (the City of God) one of the most notorious favelas (slums) outside of Rio de Janeiro that often means relying on crime to survive. The inhabitants' problems are exacerbated by indiscriminate gun battles waged by gangs trying to control the drug trade, and cops whose interrogation techniques consist of shooting first and beating confessions out of the survivors.
The City of God is a pseudo-documentary based on real individuals and events that dominated the affairs of the slum in question for a period of two decades. The cast of characters includes Rocket, the kid who hopes to use his camera to escape the slums, Bene, the gentleman gangster and diplomat, Knockout Ned, one of the `good guys' who gets caught up in the maelstrom of madness, and Li'l Ze the sociopathic crime lord who's always ready to dole out death. The performances in the film are top notch, especially when you realize that most of the participants aren't actors, consequently the emotions on display are raw, edgy and true to life. While several scenes initially appear overblown you quickly realize that the seemingly senseless violence is such that to play it any other way would be disingenuous.
The gritty texture, harsh lighting and occasional jerky camera sequences enhance the film's documentary feel, rather than appearing gimmicky (unlike the host of cinema verite flicks of the past few years ) The director also makes use of Pulp Fiction style folding time lines, and snappy editing to ensure that the pacing doesn't stagnate, and is careful not to leave any loose ends.
City of God treats the viewer to a brutal firsthand view of the poverty/crime cycle that thrives in the worlds slums. Its in-your-face approach and disturbing ending begs the disturbing question, what happens if this destructive juggernaut ever organizes and decides to leave the confines of the ghetto?