Bus 174 (Ônibus 174)

Critics Consensus

Bus 174 uses real-life tragedy as the grist for a gripping -- and terribly thought-provoking -- look at societal tensions and police violence.

97%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 78

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 6,956
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Movie Info

A chronicle exploring what happened in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on June 12th, 2000--Valentine's Day in Brazil--when Bus 174 was highjacked by an armed young man, Sandro do Nascimento, with a dozen passengers. Nascimento, a disillusioned slum-dweller, threatened to kill all of the passengers, but eventually agreed to surrender, as TV cameras were rolling and an entire nation was glued to their screens, watching the event take place. Regardless, a police officer then decided to fire at Nascimento anyway, accidentally killing one of the female passengers instead. What followed was a revolt among the city's population, enraged both at the police brutality and their incompetence. The crowd's reactions were comparable with the Rodney King riots. The documentary captures the media and society's responses to the event. As the chronicle intertwines the story of the standoff, it also presents biographical information about Sandro do Nascimento, which includes: his childhood as a survivor of the "Candelaria" child mass murders in the early 1990s; his subsequent adolescence in which he was sent to horrific juvenile delinquency facilities; as well, his trauma sustained from seeing his mother stabbed to death in front of him.

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Critic Reviews for Bus 174 (Ônibus 174)

All Critics (78) | Top Critics (27)

Audience Reviews for Bus 174 (Ônibus 174)

  • May 17, 2011
    The intentions behind making this documentary might be good (i.e. achieving an award :p), but it moves very briskly. The more-than-often-repeated threat by the hijacker to "Set the heat up" made my blood boil. Guess his vocabulary was limited. The documentary is bearable otherwise. And even if the documentary was made with pure intentions, I wonder how long will its message last (assuming that it's not being conveyed to deaf ears), if at all it does.
    familiar s Super Reviewer
  • Apr 21, 2011
    An incredibly infuriating and saddening plight of a homeless child escalating into a violent hostage situation over a decade later. Bus 174 is a documentary about Sandro do Nascimento, a homeless man raised on the streets of Rio who attempts to rob a bus, but when things go awry, he holds the passengers hostage for four hours while surrounded by the local police, SWAT, several bystanders and a large flock of Brazilian media. I won't lie, this documentary left me angry and sad and also beside myself. While what Sandro did was clearly wrong, its hard reconciling it with the fact that society had a hand in making him who he was. Very few members of his society had an interest in rehabilitating him, sheltering him or trying to improve his way of life. He was basically kicked from one place to another, and that's when he wasn't being harassed or assaulted by the local authorities. Granted he lived a life of crime, what alternative did he have: lay in a corner and starve to death? My hats off to Jose Padilha and Felipe Lacerda for introducing this into the international film library and the world's consciousness. It shows that poverty is definitely a big factor in street crime and violence. Hopefully this film with its well-deserved successes sparked a debate at least amongst Sandro's fellow Brazilians to address the scores of homeless children living amongst them.
    Remi L Super Reviewer
  • Sep 26, 2010
    An always gripping, harrowing and thought-provoking documentary that dives deep into an open sore of Brazilian society and exposes some of the most terrible social issues that have been driving out of control a city dominated by violence and indifference.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Nov 09, 2007
    On the surface, it's a police procedural, recounting the June 2000 hijacking of a Rio de Janeiro bus by a former street child that gets botched by both the police and the perpetrator and so turns into a hostage situation and then worse on national TV (think the OJ-Bronco chase). Because all of Brazil was on the edge of its seat for five hours of an afternoon and evening over the "Bus 174 Hijacking" and the police never set up a security perimeter around the vehicle as it stood at the Rio bus stop, the footage of the crime-in-progress is... incredible, unbelievable, otherworldly. You never overcome your amazement that this footage exists. Photobucket So José Padilha (as both a writer, researcher and director) starts with the greatest episode of "Cops" in history. But then he does two other things: 1) he meticulously reconstructs the life story of the perpetrator, named Sandro do Nascimento, and does so sufficiently thoroughly while weaving it into the hour-by-hour recounting of the hijacking in all the right places, so that it all seems inevitable and tragic; and 2) he demonstrates Freddy Riedenschneider Heisenberger's Uncertainty Principle of Policing (i.e., watching a thing changes it) and all the ways it contributed to the police botching the siege. Contrary to what you might think, the Brazilian police are not shown as brutal oppressors, trigger-happy Third World gangsters with badges. Very early on, the film makes it clear that bus and car hijackings are not rare in Rio (at all), but are generally handled extra-judicially in one (let it pass) or another (street justice) sense. But the media circus made both impossible. It forced police into doing *something.* But it paralyzed them from doing anything in particular, partly for fear of looking like fascists in the wake of investigations of police brutality, including the notorious Candelária massacre, in which eight Rio street kids were beaten to death by a group of men, several of them police officers, and partly from micromanagement at the highest levels of Brazilian politics. That combination of necessity and paralysis explains why the police botched this siege *in this specific way* and how Sandro met his fate *in this specific way.* And so #2 defangs and even reverses the criticisms from some over #1 - that, by detailing his backstory, the film makes excuses for Sandro. Through this depiction of top-down chill, sent down like an order against racial profiling, Bus 174 actually implies all sorts of not-so-nice things about that very kind of "oh, poor misunderstood criminal who had a crappy life" discourses that #1, on the surface, represents. For me though, the most brilliant thing about Bus 174 is that, for all the psychology, sociology and criminology it contains, it's also formally dazzling. Two scenes take place inside Rio prisons where Sandro had been. In the first, the prison has been shut down and we see the cells where dozens of men had been crammed. In the second, we see an in-use prison, only Padilha shoots this scene entirely in reverse exposure - you're basically looking at the film's negative. The jail thus looks even worse than what our imagination had told us from the first scene because the inmates have been turned into an indistinct, wailing chorus trapped in a Dantean hell. Near the end, there is also a fatal shooting that we see in real-time - we go "wtf?" - and then Padilha gives it to us frame-by-frame. And you're on the edge of your seat as you see exactly... what... you feared... it was.
    Pedro P Super Reviewer

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