The unadulterated truth


City of God (Cidade de Deus)
Year: 2002
Language: Portugese/Brazil
Director: Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund
Cast: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen

This movie reminds me of another Brazilian movie I reviewed a while back – Elite Squad 2; Drugs, gang wars, unbridled ambition and death. Both movies are racy, exciting and never lacking in bullets! The main protagonists in both movies fight against the system, they win some battles and they lose some, but they never give up the fight. Rocket (Rodrigues) tells the story of City of God, a favela (slum) in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The story is told through flashbacks, and the inter-linking of various connected stories of different elements in the crime-laden slum where kids grow up as hoodlums, with the more enterprising, ruthless ones graduating to become gang-lords.

Rocket’s brother, Goose is one of a trio of such hoodlums (the ‘Tender Trio’ – Shaggy, Clipper and Goose) that engage in theft and extortion, sometimes killing to make money. Li’l Dice and Benny are their two add-ons, two kids who have a frightening thirst for crime. Li’l Dice suggests holding up a motel to make some money and we see his resentment of how the trio treats him like a child, never giving him a piece of the real action. And in this, we see the makings of a brutal, evil, hard-nosed drug-lord. He is asked to be the lookout but instead kills everyone at the hotel and makes away with the money while the trio is pursued by the cops. He kills Goose and then continues to kill at whim, just for the thrill of killing.

Li’l Dice becomes Li’l Z (Firmino) and along with the help of Benny, completely purges the competition in City of God and establishes a drug empire (since Li’l Z realises that drugs is where the money is). At the head of an industry of foot soldiers and dealers that run on the necessities of dope-heads and addicts, Li’l Z establishes some calm in the slum and a certain level of protection to the slum-dwellers. Meanwhile, Rocket wants to be a photographer and tries to keep away from the gangs, especially his brother’s killer. He starts work with a local newspaper and tries to earn money the honest way. His chance photographs of Li’l Z’s gang catapult him into a life of ambition and danger.

This movie is just thrilling and disturbing at the very core of its subject. Children as young as 6 and 7, drink, smoke weed and tote guns. They steal and extort, threaten and hold up bakeries, run by honest people. They sell drugs and ingest drugs. And what is more chilling is that it is based on real-life events, on a novel of the same name by Paulo Line. Watch this. It’s a superb ride through hell on earth; of crime, passion, revenge and just pure evil. Watch it to know how Li’l Z meets his end…and how the cycle of crime in the City of God is a vicious, never-ending one.

Verdict: An exciting, disturbing movie that kept me on edge throughout
Rating: 4stars
Hot: Superb performances, some of the actors are actual residents of the City of God. Plus the movie is based on actual events. What could be more thrilling than that?
Not: It is a movie about pure, unadulterated crime. If you cannot stomach that, don’t watch this