"City of God"
Directed by Fernando Meirelles.
Written by Braulio Mantovani. Based on a book by Paulo Lins.
Starring a whole bunch of Brazilians.
Release Year: 2002
Review Date: 2/24/04
Man, you just can’t keep a good crime epic
down, and when you’ve got all of the elements—grit, guns, ghettos,
girls and godfathers—you can’t go wrong, especially when your
opening sequence...is a chase scene featuring a chicken.
“City of God”, released in 2002 from Brazil
but not up for consideration last year since it was not submitted in
time for the Oscars, has got it all, plus a true story to back up
its narrative. In the 1960s and 70s, a kid named Rocket grows up in
a slum of Rio de Janeiro called the City of God. He sees it
all—crime, drugs, corruption, gang wars, poverty, you name it. Over
the course of the film, we see the action in the slum through a few
different perspectives: Rocket’s, from his youth through his 20s; a
trio of slum gangsters in the 60s that force Rocket to consider a
life of crime versus finding a job on the up-and-up; L’il Dice, a
gang leader and rival to Carrot, another gang leader in the slum;
the Runts, a child gang that might be the most frightening force of
the film; and Benny, the second-in-command in Dice’s gang that longs
for a crime-free future.
I had not even seen a trailer for this film,
but after it was nominated for so many Oscars last month, I knew I
had to see it soon. So worth it. This is filmmaking at its finest,
especially in terms of the adult cinematic experience—yes, you can
mix scenes of violent shootouts, wives talking about anal sex, a
dance sequence featuring the Carl Douglas song “Kung Fu Fighting”
and characters snorting so much coke that even I was getting
high—and the final result is just a thrill ride, the shocks, the
that accompanied so many of the visuals in “City of God.” The slums
profiled in the film just look depressing, but more depressing is
the constant reminder that this is home for so many people, and as
an American you just shake your head to wonder how some of these
folks can even get up in the morning knowing that they could be
beaten, robbed or worse on any given Sunday for no reason at all.
But, there they go, and that’s just how it is...but, the emotions
some of these actors convey in just a few brief moments are
The work of director Fernando Meirelles is
the best thing about “City of God”, hands-down. This afternoon, I
read that most of the gang member cast members in “City of God” are
real-life street toughs and untrained actors; if that’s the case,
the work Meirelles gleans out of his child actors in particular is
unfathomable. A critical sequence featuring a child actor that is
wounded in the foot was so believable that you could feel members of
the audience just snap with tension; the body english of the actors
is just so natural, so relaxed...and, in a moment, abrasive,
violent, and it hits you that it’s just surreal that kids could be
carrying around AR-15s and revolvers shooting each other for days
and weeks at a time.
You really must see this as soon as possible
if you haven’t already. I was shaking my head throughout “City of
God”, and I think that’s because I was so caught up in what was
happening. You don’t get that everyday.
Rating: Opening Weekend
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard