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City Of God

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: City Of God

Starring: Matheus Nachtergaele, Leandro Firmino da Hora
Director: Fernando Meirelles
Rated: R
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: January 2003
Genres: Action, Drama, Foreign

*Also starring: Alexandre Rodrigues, Seu Jorge, Jonathan Haagensen, Phelipe Haagensen

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

"I've smoked [pot]," says Otto, a child about ten years old. "I've snorted. I've robbed and killed. I'm a man." Otto wants to prove himself so that he can join one of the sadistic gangs in the City of God, an ironically named Brazilian slum populated mainly with black Brazilians. Rarely have a group of youngsters been more in need of God, or at least a smidgen of basic morality.

CITY OF GOD (CIDADE DE DEUS), a well-made but pointless picture, is a non-stop orgy of senseless violence, as teens and preteens slaughter each other like animals, a comparison which is unfair to animals, who usually kill to eat rather than to impress other animals. Like THE LORD OF THE FLIES with guns, the movie tries hard to be an Y TU MAM TAMBIźN with the obsession with sex replaced with a love of violence. As eight-year-olds and younger are both murderers and victims, you may have trouble figuring out why critics are going gaga over such a heartless tale. Although there is a token kid, Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), who rises above the gore and accidentally makes something of himself as a photographer, most of the movie plays like a Quentin Tarantino hallucination. Supposedly based on a true story, it makes one wonder whether this many kids really tried to blow each other's brains out. The body count must be in the hundreds.

To be fair to the kids, some of the characters do eventually grow to be adults, albeit without discovering any moral compass. Shorty (Gero Camilo), one of the few older than thirty, is a police snitch who is arrested for burying his wife alive.

After watching the film for fifteen minutes, there is no point in staying any longer. By then, you'll have had its message beaten into your head that poverty breeds unspeakable horrors. You'll also be aghast that the MPAA rating board thinks preteen murder and murderers aren't enough to get a film rated NC-17. This is the same MPAA board that thinks explicit sexuality should be NC-17. Which, I ask you, is the greater threat to society?

CITY OF GOD runs a long 2:10. The film is in Portuguese with English subtitles. It is rated R for "strong brutal violence, sexuality, drug content and language" and would be acceptable for college students.

Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes

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