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City of God
Brazil, France
Crime, Drama
IMDB rating:
Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund
Alexandre Rodrigues as Buscapé Criança - Young Rocket
Leandro Firmino as Dadinho - Li'l Dice
Phellipe Haagensen as Bené Criança - Young Benny
Douglas Silva as Dadinho - Li'l Dice
Jonathan Haagensen as Cabeleira - Shaggy
Matheus Nachtergaele as Sandro Cenoura - Carrot
Seu Jorge as Mané Galinha - Knockout Ned
Jefechander Suplino as Alicate - Clipper
Alice Braga as Angélica
Emerson Gomes as Barbantinho - Stringy
Edson Oliveira as Barbantinho Adulto - Older Stringy
Michel de Souza as Bené Criança - Young Benny
Roberta Rodrigues as Berenice - Bernice
Luis Otávio as Buscapé Criança - Young Rocket
Storyline: Brazil, 1960's, City of God. The Tender Trio robs motels and gas trucks. Younger kids watch and learn well...too well. 1970's: Li'l Zé has prospered very well and owns the city. He causes violence and fear as he wipes out rival gangs without mercy. His best friend Bené is the only one to keep him on the good side of sanity. Rocket has watched these two gain power for years, and he wants no part of it. Yet he keeps getting swept up in the madness. All he wants to do is take pictures. 1980's: Things are out of control between the last two remaining gangs...will it ever end? Welcome to the City of God.
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A Must See Film
I knew nothing about this film before I actually saw it. Considering it was one of the first foreign films I had ever seen I was shocked that I enjoyed it that much. The acting is brilliant, the story is delightful and very understandable. Everything has been put together and made a compelling finish. The camera work helps the film to be so gratifying especially for someone who does not understand the language the film is made in. Every angle tells a different story so you never draw your eyes away for a split second as the film captivates you that much you do not want to a miss a single shot. The director has admirably captured the idea of the poverty, crime, drugs and violence and throughout that you follow Rocket (the one ounce of hope of escapism from the favelas). Considering I had never really enjoyed a foreign film before I would say this was a great one to see and I found it very satisfying and would definitely watch it again.
The Best Film Ever Made
Before anyone says anything, hear me out. According to the IMDb Top 250 list, "The Godfather" reigns supreme as number one, while "City of God," or more appropriately, "Cidade de Deus," is at the number 17 slot. But to compare the two is like comparing an Arnold Schwartzenegger movie to "Crash." They are just too different. But for me, while Francis Ford Coppolla's 1972 film is rightly considered a masterpiece, "City of God" is more memorable and packs a bigger punch. That, and "The Godfather" has had 30 more years under its belt to gather its legendary status. And it's in English (which, sadly, makes a lot of difference).

Now, "City of God." What a rush! Fernando Meirelles's masterpiece is a film to behold. Many critics have described films as "explosive" for the punch they pack, and/or the unflinching reality of the subject matter. But there has been no film I have ever seen that can match "City of God" for energy. It has so much energy that instead of unfolding, it throws itself at you all at once, leaving everything else to be done afterwards. The actors don't act; they don't have time. They just...are. Everything is done to such an extreme, it's surprising that Meirelles manages to make none of it sensationalistic or exploitative.

Some people will tell you that this film is the chronicle of two drug lords. While there is some truth in that, the plot, if one could call it that, is better described as the chronicle of the "City of God" itself. Characters float in and out, with the "out" part frequently involving a bang (or more likely, a series of them). The characters are given background only if and when they are needed.

Like I said, there's really no time to develop subtly-nuanced performances. The film moves with such breakneck energy that to do so would only slow it down. There are only a few characters that really matter. Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) is our window into the hellish slums. The result isn't voyeuristic, instead Rocket is more like a guide (albeit with only the narration addressing the audience). He's a normal teen, with interests in girls (particularly Angelica (Alice Braga)), sex, and aspirations to be a photographer. But his main goal is simply to survive each day. Also of note is Li' Ze, who we see growing up with a taste for violence as a kid (kids shoot and kill people just as frequently, if not more so, than adults). His increasingly drug-addled brain and his ambition makes him more frightening by the minute. The only one who keeps him grounded and (relatively) under control is Benny (Phellipe Haagensen), the "coolest hood in the City of God." There's some truth in that statement, as spoken by Rocket. He's the shed of brightness in this hellish city (though he's no goody-two-shoes). Finally, there is Lil Ze's rival, Knockout Ned (Seu Jorge), who has the film's most notable character changes.

But this is Fernando Meirelles movie. He throws in everything he can think of, and then some. References to Tarantino are abound, and there are probably more, but Meirelles takes the energy level up so high that there's no room for even a "please" or "thank you." Desaturated colors. A constantly moving camera. Loud noises. An upbeat soundtrack (which is the film's saving grace from becoming too grim). It's all here.

People may not agree with me that this is the best film ever made, and that's okay. I respect that. But make no mistake, it's an unforgettable 130 minutes.
Real eye opener
The City of God is the name of a city slum in Rio de Janeiro. The movie is so shocking in the amount of violence that takes place in these streets, that it is one place you must not go. The movie follows the lives of several kids who grow up in the slums during the 60's, 70's, and 80's. Some kids took the path of crime, violence and the drug trade, and others tried to escape the slum. The senseless violence in this movie was so brutal that even the cops wouldn't go into the slums without a squad of men. It looked like all the teenagers had a gun, and they would use it if anybody looked the wrong way. One of the kids, Buscape became a photographer for a newspaper, and this story was described and seen through his eyes. The movie is a real eye opener on how little life is worth in other parts of the world. The movie is not in English and has subtitles. (Miramax Films, Run Time 1:30, Rated R) (6/10)
One of my favorite movies. I can be very short about this film. Never has a movie evoked so many emotions in such a short period of time from me. From raw excitement during some scenes to sadness in others. The story is very well presented, with realistic characters. The good guys aren't 100% good, nor are the bad guys 100% bad. For me, every character had at least one thing I could relate to, even Zedje. Some may consider the film to be too violent, but I think the violence is needed to realistically portrait the hard life in the City of God, or any other slum where drug cartels are present. A well shot and edited film, with uplifting music, an evoking story an ensemble of characters, uplifting music. What more could one wish for in a movie?
Kids With Guns
'City Of God' is not an easy film to watch, nor is it an easy film to like. Were it not for the stark reality that permeates most of the production, this could have been a modern zombie flick. None of the characters in this movie are really alive anyway. They're the walking dead, living each moment with the threat of death knocking holes in their front door. The actors do the best they can with powerful material that offers them no real hope. As I said, zombie flick.

After 2002's searing documentary, 'Bowling For Columbine', it seems a little ghoulish to see a movie filled to the brim with shots of kids with guns. And they use their guns oh so casually, killing at will. It's not easy to make a viewer immune to the sight of a child brandishing a gun, let alone firing it, let alone shooting it at people. Repeatedly. After a while, I wasn't appalled anymore. 'City Of God' is relentless in its offhand violence, proving once again that ghetto conditions breed desperation and murder. Perhaps that's truthful. In fact, I have no doubt that this movie is bang-on.

That's the rub. For every moment of authenticity, there's one of over-the-top brutality. Is it over the top, however, if it's trying to be factual? I'm not sure. See, I can't say I liked this film, but the energy and raw power brought forth is admirable. Certain audiences should see it (not children, not the weak-stomached), but they need to be forewarned of how rough things get. Director Fernando Meirelles puts the camera literally into the action (think 'Saving Private Ryan' in Brazil) and doesn't allow you to view the horrors from a safe distance.

So why am I reserved about this film? Violence in movies doesn't usually bother me. Maybe it's that I found it difficult to relate to the characters. I have never experienced the squalor or pain they experience on a daily basis. And---I have to be honest---I had a hard time keeping everybody straight. Once the film gets going and it settles into the '70s time frame after jumping around a lot, that problem goes away. Still, I was supposed to be engaged from minute one and it took a little longer for me to get warmed up.

The young, unknown cast is solid. They're not good enough to be etched in my memory, although Alice Braga (as Angelica) is one of the most beautiful girls I've seen in years. Since the actors are portraying biographical characters, they're already limited in what they can do. Meirelles rings genuine emotions from the legions of kids in this picture, who probably had a blast pretending to be a kill-crazy street gang.

I think I'd get into the story and the characters more with a second viewing. But is it worth seeing again? Perhaps. I'd probably never enjoy it, though. There's something cynical going on here, a gloomier resolution than what's in similar subject matter (such as 'Boyz N The Hood'). That film is a tragedy, this one is a tragedy of such extreme proportions that you know nothing can save the people---especially the innocent---in the city of God. Judging by how popular the movie is with audiences worldwide, I'm in the minority here. All I can hope for is that this film illuminates this gangland mentality that we see in all downtrodden cities. If the film helps to correct that issue, it will indeed have served a valuable purpose. I recommend 'City Of God', just not very strongly.
Just really an average gang movie
I cannot say it is a bad movie. Actually it is one of the best i have seen lately... I went to the movies when the movie first came to my country, I didn't like it very much. Yesterday I wanted to see it again, because may be i couldn't understand it when i was 16 or 17 when i first saw it. I played the DVD tonight, and yes, i really hadn't catch quite the movie 5 years ago. Now I did, but that doesn't made me love it. Yes, the story was quite original and the director did a good job, but in my opinion this isn't enough for a movie to qualify in the top 20 of the greatest movies here... Leandro Firmino(Li'l Ze) performs great and deserves a high praise, but can it really compare to the performance of, for example, Al Pacino in Heat (160 positions under City of God in Top250). This is ridiculous. It is quite unfair that foreign language movies are rated so high, just because they are not American. I really don't mean to offend anyone. I still think the movie is good, but still cannot compare to much more valuable movies which even didn't make it to the top250. As I already said it is just an average gangster movie. And please don't judge my opinion, cause everyone has the right to like or not like a movie, no matter if it is in the top20...
City Of God
un, don't walk, to the cinema is all I can say. This electrifying picture is part tender coming-of-age film and part gang-warfare epic from the Brazilian slum, or favela, told from the viewpoint of the children who manage to be both its underclass and its criminal overlords. It's a movie with all the dials cranked up to 11, an overwhelming, intoxicating assault on the senses, and a thriller so tense that you might have the red seat plush in front of you - or even some unfortunate's hair - gripped in both fists.

Crime has, in a nauseous reversal of liberal social thinking, almost been "designed into" the City of God, but any foreseeable conventional breakdown of law and order has evolved one or two steps further into the corruption and degradation of children. Li'l Dice, a tiny kid, plans a staggeringly audacious hold-up of a brothel, but in a fit of pique at being relegated to the status of lookout by his older comrades, returns to the scene of the crime to murder every single innocent customer and employee of the "motel" - it is a truly chilling moment of unalloyed evil.

Meirelles's storytelling rushes forward at a full, breathless tilt, swerving, accelerating, doubling back on itself, amplifying the roles and experiences of incidental characters. A bravura narrative moment reveals itself when he discloses the history of one single apartment, showing how it becomes degraded and denatured as it ceases to be a family home and becomes a drug-dealer's den. Meirelles's film flashes and sweeps around you, dizzying, disorientating, intoxicating.

His mastery of his material consists not merely in the adaptation of Paulo Lins's novel, but a direct engagement with the ghetto itself, and his triumphant recruitment of a veritable army of non-professionals is the result of an almost military raid on this dangerous territory. This is something that combines film-making with oral history. It is a compelling piece of work.
A Study in Brutality
City of God was a study in brutality. Offending all of the senses, the movie proceded in using a multisensory approach to capture the very essence of violence, in every sense of the word. Human beings of every age were tortured and murdered. A main character was depicted inflicting multiple injuries and deaths while laughing hysterically. I had to wonder what the point of the movie was. Any claim to artistic expression evaded me, entirely.
City of God ***SPOILER ALERT***

What would you do if you were trapped in an on going war between a drug dealer's gang and corrupt cops all because of a run away chicken? That is exactly how Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, get you hooked on, City of God (2002). As the viewer, you will automatically be hooked by the intro. Your mind will wonder with curiosity as it attempts to figure out what is happening in that scene. This movie was "filmed" in the city of Deus Slums. I say "film" because it wasn't really filmed there, it was to dangerous to film in that city to to all the violence, drugs, and gang rivalry. However, the directs chose to film this movie in a place that would resemble the place physically to show what truly occurs in the Deus Slums. People always talk about how wonderful things are, yet these directors took you into the average day at the Deus Slums. They truly show what would go on between gangs, the drug war, the violence, family issues, and death. However, the way the story is told in this movie is by telling the story of other character, in order to tell the story of the main character, Rocket. When the story of each character is told they all start off with good or decent intentions, however, you can see the character develop to the situations that occur in Deus Slums. They have the option to do good or to do bad. You can guys what they all pick... The way the directs tell the story with other stories is memorizing because you can see everything come together. It is as if you were looking into someones life. It was very direct movie, the directors did not change scene to make the audience comfortable, instead they showed the truth of what was occurring. This movie will make you laugh, ponder on certain things, sad, and happy all at the same time. I would recommend watching this movie.
Unmoved (some small spoilers)
This film has been executed with considerable skill - 10/10 for visual and storytelling style. It is brilliant, expert and flawless in its execution.

Much of the style is stolen from Scorcese movies, as unashamedly as the characters in the film steal money. I don't mind that, as there's plenty of original invention - I particularly liked a scene in the a room where the time fades from one part of the story to the next, with the room's decor changing, but the camera angle was fixed. Although, I'm sure someone will tell me that wasn't original either. The use of freeze-frame with subtitle is tired now, as it's been done by so many Scorcese wanna-bes in the last 15 years.

So this was all very impressive - except I didn't care about any of the characters. I don't know how accurately this is based on the "true story", but if the real characters can dispatch each other as carelessly as their fictional versions, and think of nothing but screwing, stealing or killing, I think they must be rather boring company.

Much of the action focuses on a man called Li'l Ze who, we are shown, kills people and enjoys it, from a very early age. Why he enjoys it is a question not entertained here, and so he comes across as a rather bland killing machine; at one point, shooting a comrade on the spot for talking to him in an annoying way. I wasn't sure if this was supposed to be a comedy moment - it certainly came across as one.

The one character who isn't obsessed with killing and stealing is the narrator, Busca-Pé, who's ambition is to become a photographer. But he's not really involved in the story, except to be in the right place at the right time to be able to recount it for our benefit. We never see Busca-Pé have much of an effect on events, or express much of an opinion, or even express much emotionally during the constant slaughter. He seems more concerned about losing his virginity than anything else.

The way women are portrayed in this film is questionable. They are either objects of sex, having sex, talking about sex, being raped, or being beaten by their men. At no point do we hear what the women of the City of God express their thoughts or feelings on this hellish world in which they exist.

In fact, nearly all, if not all, of the characters in this movie appear entirely soulless. Are we supposed to sympathise with Li'l Ze's best friend because he doesn't kill people as wantonly as the rest? Am I supposed to feel empathy for this man because he occasionally persuades Li'l Ze to spare someone's life (meanwhile, coming across as a fairly easy-going chap - something of an achievement, considering the countless killings he's been involved in)?

No matter how skillfully this film was made, how well acted, how perfectly constructed, as the body-counted mounted, like the characters in the movie, I didn't really care.
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