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City of God

MPAA Rating: R for strong brutal violence, sexuality, drug content and language

not reviewed
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Art/Foreign, Crime/Gangster, Drama and Thriller
2 hr. 13 min.
Year of Release:
Copyright, Miramax Films Copyright, Miramax Films
Copyright, Miramax Films

Starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Matheus Nachtergaele, Alice Braga, Seu Jorge, Leandro Firmino da Hora | Directed by: Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund | Produced by: Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Mauricio Andrade Ramos, Walter Salles | Distributor: Miramax Films

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Positive—The story centers around the chanced photojournalism career of Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), based on the true story in Cidade De Deus by Paolo Lins, who grew up in the City of God (Brazil). The entire film by Fernando Meirelles is tightly paced, with some reiteration of spliced slices Guy Ritchie style. Each chapter is prefaced by a witty-title and Brazilian percussion, to the point of clicheness.

In the slum area ironically named City of God, violence is portrayed as a natural means to attain what is needed. Police are silenced by bribes, only marginal criminals are caught, while the majority of hoodlums fall under the control of druglords.

We see the cyclical degeneration of crime in this set, where Rocket’s friend, Lil’Dice (Firmino da Hora) is assigned by his older brother to be the watchdog in the burglary of a motel. The child ends up slaughtering the whole motel while maniacally laughing. Lil’Dice, now L’il Ze, and Carrot (Matheus Nachtergaele) grow to be the two major drug lords, (Lil’Ze was granted a headstart by ursurping the local drug business run by a junkie old lady) and their business is not centered around the making of money to oust poverty, but the garnering of power in the city.

Violence is aplenty—close-ups of people being shot at pont blank-range, children killing each other, a family coming under fire while being totally defenseless… the list is endless. Some of my friends have reflected that there is so much violence that it seems almost humourous. I reckon that it is only because our consciousness would balk at believing what is Reel as Real. The only way to really sit through the film is to treat the killings as events (much like the way many newspapers portray news) and think about it later. Either way, the violence is so numbing that you will end up doing that, shutting your eyes, or viewing the incidents as a pure image. I would not recommended this film for a family viewing, or for any yet-to-mature individuals.

However, the film has strong merits. It has a strong storyline, based largely on Paolo Lin’s own life. Through a largely distant narration, the film does not attempt to churn our any sympathetic emotions from the audience. The strength and honesty of acting (with the children being cast from Rio de Janeiro’s neighbourhood itself), sufficiently depicts the bonds and relationships between various characters.

Morality? This film has none, as in a Godless setting. It is hard put to rate the film in terms of morality given the very different cultural and social setting. “If they have not heard, then how can they believe?”

City of God does not mince the reality that occurs in Rio’s poorest neighbourhoods. In this sense, the movie is itself a documentary, and an extremely educational one at that. So for individuals who like to experience new cultures, think and mull over the message of films, and do not cringe at seeing life as it is… go for this one.
My Ratings: [Extremely Offensive/4]
—Elaine Khoo, age 24
Movie Critics
…at least 70 subtitled “f” words…| Violence: Extreme | Sex/Nudity: Extreme…
…superbly crafted, energy-packed… a photographer’s tale of the ultra-violent, relentless gang wars he witnessed over several decades growing up in a Rio slum… non-stop assault of youthful brutality, crime and death…
—Doris Toumarkine, Film Journal International
…it takes a strong stomach to sit through its two-plus hours of non-stop brutality…
—William Arnold, Seattle Post-Intelligencer
…The violence in “City of God” is extreme and shocking…
—James Berardinelli, ReelViews
…full of action, but no soul… an extreme body count whose tally rises while your blood pressure is likely to stall. I don’t mean to sound blase or to suggest that if you’ve seen one pack of young derelict hoods try to assassinate another, you’ve seen them all. But there’s something distasteful in the rote way this film introduces us to two dozen hapless, heartless kids and doesn’t care enough to make us feel for them. It would rather doll up the slum and memorialize the trigger-happy thugs infesting it…
—Wesley Morris, Boston Globe