The story of a young black man, Héracles, who after being released from a juvenile institution, tries to apply for his first honest job as a motorcycle delivery boy. To get the job, he has ...
See full summary »
The story of a young black man, Héracles, who after being released from a juvenile institution, tries to apply for his first honest job as a motorcycle delivery boy. To get the job, he has to perform 12 hard tasks in São Paulo. A contemporary interpretation of the Hercules's myth.Written by
After the overrated "De Passagem" (2003), Ricardo Elias' second feature "Os 12 Trabalhos" is another missed opportunity to uncover a throbbing and controversial universe, this time the dangerous, fast-living world of delivery bikers who criss-cross the huge city of São Paulo: it's estimated there are around 300,000 of them rendering services, delivering from pizzas to legal and illegal drugs, with an average of two casualties DAILY.
Using superficial, obvious references to the Greek myth, Elias names his young protagonist Heracles (newcomer Sidney Santiago, an interesting face, but it's a one-note face and a one-note performance). He's an ex-inmate of a juvenile delinquency facility, and gets a chance to work as a delivery biker through the effort of his older cousin Jonas (Flávio Bauraqui, trying hard to breathe some life into the film), also a biker himself. Heracles must perform "12 labors" (deliveries) in a single day in order to be officially hired by delivery firm, called -- oops -- "Olympo Express". The film follows Heracles around the city in what's pretty much an assemblage of loose independent episodes: the people he meets, the dangers and surprises that go with the job, the racial and social prejudices he has to face in his hardly Herculean (sorry, that was inevitable) tasks.
In his two features, director Elias seems to focus on two main interests: to portray the "nice guy" side of socially rejected characters (the two boys from a favela in "De Passagem", the bikers here) and his endless fascination with the complex, Babelian metropolis of São Paulo -- he's in obvious awe of its gargantuan size (10,000,000 people), contrasts, demographics and geography. Unfortunately, Elias and his DP Jay Yamashida fail to convey the excitement that we expect from a biker slashing across the perpetually car-packed avenues; the motorcycle scenes are technically ho-hum and remarkably plodding, which is a sort of feat (a SLOW film about bikers??). And we know, don't we, that "nice" protagonists seldom make an interesting movie. We get to meet a myriad of supporting characters that are so little time on screen they're mostly stereotypes, leaving us ultimately indifferent.
Furthermore, Elias indulges in obvious, tired, in- your-face film references, including the literal rip-off of Truffaut's "Les 400 Coups" celebrated finale, and the exhausted "Are You Talking to Me" mirror routine from Scorsese's "Taxi Driver". What can you say about a film in which the best single sequence (the cat-chasing) is a rip-off of Joaquim Pedro de Andrade's seminal short "Couro de Gato"? The dialog is pedestrian, the direction of actors is highly irregular (most of the young actors seem amateurish, fortunately the experienced ones know what to do) and the visual style flat (the dialog sequences suffer from banal soap opera-like direction and editing). On a positive note, the multi-style soundtrack selection gives the film a much needed energy boost, except for the misplaced use of Edu Lobo & Chico Buarque's marvelous song "Valsa Brasileira".
Despite all of the above, "Os 12 Trabalhos" is not a BAD film; it's just very disappointing and ultimately unnerving if we consider what a missed opportunity it is, how little advantage it took of the potentially controversial and thrilling subject, how it wasted the zillion script and visual possibilities that were at the director's disposal. Maybe on his next project Elias will seek new collaborators (especially other writers and cinematographer) to shake up things a bit -- up to now, his sincere, honest, "nice guy" films lack boldness, stamina and risk.
14 of 18 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this