Cidade de Deus (City of God) Reviews
More of a chronicle of disparate gangs than a cohesive plot, City of God is frenetic filmmaking at its finest. Quick camera pans, storylines that stop and start, and bloodletting violence fill this film with the type of energy that is reminiscent of Tarantino and Scorsese. Based on true stories, the film is more about environment than plot, and the feeling is both harrowing and shocking.
There's no one central performance that strikes me as remarkable because all of the performances ring with authenticity.
Overall, this is one of the finest portraits of gang violence produced outside of America.
Our story spans twenty years, and mostly follows the story of Rocket (Rodrigues) who doesn't have an inhibition to take up a life of crime. He loses relatives, friends, and acquaintances in this environment, but it's just another aspect of his life in the City of God. There are a lot of narratives threading through this film, like a Gabriel García Márquez novel. We follow Rocket for much of the film, but we also follow gang leader Lil' Dice (later christened Lil' Ze) (Firmino da Hora) as he takes over territory, creates tension amongst his ranks, creates havoc, tortures people, and starts a gang war that lasts longer than others have before. We also follow the exploits of Knockout Ned (Jorge) as he fights against Lil' Ze, Blacky, a low level drug dealer, Shorty (Camilo), an older man who murders his wife, and several others in the slum. Weaving through these narratives is constant violence and police intervention.
In this film children of any age are thrust into adulthood, a gun perched on their hips while a lollipop lolls out the corner of their mouths. Children cry from bullet wounds the same as scraped knees, women are commodities, guns are badges of honor, and death is inevitable. The visuals in this film are color coordinated, bright, and informational during time jumps. The editing flashes quickly, but doesn't overwhelm the viewer by overloading the screen. The scenery is gritty and yet evocative of a cultural heritage somewhat trampled and yet thriving. Through the constant theme of violence and cyclical gang warfare we have a huge host of characters, but each of them is memorable and complex in their understanding of the world. All of these side characters are played by amateur or unknown actors, but it doesn't show. They understand the material they are covering, but are also closely linked to this subject, as many of these children were from the actual slums. Lead actor Rodrigues lived in the City of God at the time of filming, which makes his performance that much more heartbreaking, that much more uncomfortable.
There were some seriously scary, terrorizing, heartbreaking scenes in this film. It's not just a film about the sound of a tommy gun during a drive by, or the wads of cash in some hood's back pocket. It's more about life, about the wish for escapism that's hardly ever sated, and silent hope, which often dies a strangled, harried death. Watching this film, you won't believe in its realism, but at the very end, before the credits roll, "Based Upon a True Story" flashes, and old wounds are ripped open anew. This is a cultural epitome that not only brutally entertains as did Scorsese's classic, but also edifies its viewer without condescension.
Great Film!!! Not only are the characters in City of God absolutely fascinating, and also very endearing, but also convincingly acted by groups of young and unknown actors. The stories are well-told, and at times, funny, and at others, brutally shocking. The cinematic style of the film gives a nod to Tarantino, with some clever time-jumping, freeze-framing, and texts indicating another chapter of the film. In every sense, a bit of a Brazillian "Pulp Fiction" or "Goodfellas", but with its own unique flavour to it. The City of God is a marvel, and a highly recommended film to watch, but not recommended for the over-sensitive or easily distressed.
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.
I felt transported into the City of God whilst watching this film, the director really makes you feel every inch of the film and care for and despise some of the characters.
It's a solid yet exciting film with faultless performances. Leandro Firmino was especially excellent as Li'l Zé, I don't think I've ever hated a character as much.
This film is wonderfully crafted with beautiful cinematography that takes you on an exhilirating and brutal journey into the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Probably one of the best foreign films I have seen, it stays with you. See this movie.
A very brutal, violent but totally gripping and powerful film that doesn't shy away from the dangers of living in extreme poverty.
Quite simply an absolute belter!!!