City Of God (2002)


You know the place, the Big Jesus one there
You know the place, the Big Jesus one there

Genre: Crime Drama (Brazil, France)

Starring: Alexandre RodriguesLeandro Firmino

Directed By: Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener Blindness), Kátia Lund

Overview: In a violent slum of Rio de Janeiro, we follow the lives of two boys, Rocket and Li'l Dice as they live and try to surive their everyday lives, one with a gun, the other with a camera.


Where movies like Reservoir Dogs, Scarface, and Goodfellas have a way of pumping you up, of letting you walk away realizing how slick and dangerous the gangster's life is. Even though films like these tend to end badly for our anti-heroes, it's still just a little glorious, a little… machismo. Not quite so with the gut-drilling Brazilian decades-in-the-life Cidade de Deus, a story about gangsters whom we know never really had any other option, gangsters who started their life of crime from the tender age of when they learned to run. It's hard to pump your fists in praise at a set of balls when it's pointing a pistol at the head of a four-year-old crying for his mommy.
Set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, our story is told through the eyes of Rocket, a boy caught between a chicken and a hard place. In his flashback tale of how he got to this point, we go back to Rocket's childhood where we learn of his older brother, Goose, and Goose's gang, "The Tender Trio". The Tender Trio makes its money with hold-ups and hi-jacks and, on one particular occasion, take the 8-year old Li'l Dice with them when they knock over a brothel. Quickly we learn that Li'l Dice is a sadistic, ruthless thug, and grows up to be a sadistic, ruthless gang leader. From here we follow the lives of Rocket, Li'l Dice and his gang, Carrot's rival gang,  Knockout Ned and The Runts and how these people keep the endless cycle of ghetto life going strong. What makes City of God special is the constant undercurrent of social commentary going on, and though some scenes put us in the mobster-cool mentality, most of the film shows us a depressing, hopeless side of 'the life' that we don't normally see. Simply put, it's more honest and less gratuitous than its American mob movie counterparts, and, given that it's based on a true story, easier to swallow as truth.

Not your typical 'gangsters are cool' flick
Not your typical 'gangsters are cool' flick

Performance: 8 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8

Overall Rating: 82% (Swear To It)

Now those of you who've decided that City Of God may not be the fun film to chose this evening since it's too gut-wrenching for you, let me add that it's #19 on IMDb's top 250. Also, what's great about City of God is that it doesn't hover in the mire of anguish. There's many joyful, entertaining moments in it to take the brutality of it all away. Its slick high-contrast cinematography, rich with post-production editing effects indicative of an high budget make it visually immersive - did I mention it was on Blu-Ray? 


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You are in the right there.  Alot of the film industy (and media in general) treats these Gangster movies, even with 'CRIME DOESN'T PAY(!!!), with a tint of macho flavour.

It's scarse to think of anything where that isn't the case, except the beginning of Once Upon a Time in America, the Wire (especially Season 4), and Sin Nombre.


Still, an excellant review and film both.

Love this film. Thanks.

You doing a blog-a-thon this year?

I was really thinking about reviewing all Billy Wilder's Stuff, actually!Guess who imspired THAT :D

I'll watch for that one. I kinda feel like I owe you one - I meant to write for your Kurosawa one, but didn't do my commentary till waaaay after your blog-a-thon.

hahah no problem. I'm still in the process of moving in, getting things working to make my home and it takes a lot of time, so I might not make my usual November date.

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