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    City of Men

    Slum lords

    More bronzed bodies bearing arms leading to inevitable shootouts delivered via a washed-out, hand-held digital style pulsing along to an infectious Latin beat.


    In 2002, Brazilian filmmakers Fernando Meirelles and Ktia Lund made "City of God" ("Cidade de Deus"), a kinetic portrait of life in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro centered around a bunch of gangster wannabes with names like Knockout Ned, Carrot, and Li'l Z. The film, which featured a largely amateur cast of kids from the barrios coupled with a bravura filmmaking style, positively burned with an infectious, high-octane energy.

    Original title: Cidade dos Homens.
    Directed by: Paulo Morelli.
    Produced by: Fernando Meirelles, Paulo Morelli.
    Written by: Elena Soarez, Paulo Morelli.
    Cast: Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha, Jonathan Haagensen, Rodrigo dos Santos, Camila Monteiro, Naima Silva.
    Cinematography: Adriano Goldman.
    Edited by: Daniel Rezende.
    Music by: Antonio Pinto.
    Production design by: Ins Salgado.
    Art direction by: Ins Salgado.
    Costumes by: Ins Salgado.
    In Spanish with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
    So successful was that picture both on its home turf and internationally (it was nominated for four Academy Awards) that it spawned a television series, "City of Men" ("Cidade dos Homens"), four seasons of which ran from 2002 through 2005 on the Brazilian TV Globo network (it circulated on DVD in the U.S. in 2006).

    Now there's "City of Men," the movie (which also goes by the title "Cidade dos Homens" lest you now be totally confused), a feature length spin-off of the TV show that takes select characters and situations from the series and blends them into a seamless — and standalone — 110-minute whole. It's more an in-name-only companion piece to the first film rather than a sequel (or prequel) and while Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha appear in both films, they play different and unrelated characters in each.

    City of Men  
    The point is, if you enjoyed "City of God" you'll find plenty to enjoy in "City of Men." The new film is certainly less flashy than its predecessor, focusing more on its characters than its camerawork/cinematography, but there are many similarities, simply from the two films' locations, subject matter (bronzed bodies, youth bearing arms, inevitable shootouts), and a washed-out, hand-held digital style that pulses along to a Latin beat.

      Offsetting these familial dramas is a raging gang war in which rival groups of street toughs take — and take back — the surrounding hillsides.
    Ace (Silva) and Wallace (Cunha) are best friends on the verge of manhood; each is about to turn 18. Ace is married with a young child and Wallace lives with his mother and never knew his father, although he could sure use Dad's signature in order to procure his ID card. Thus begins a search for Heraldo (Rodrigo dos Santos) that, rather quickly in fact, turns up a soccer-playing waiter of an ex-con who has jumped his parole and is now lying low in a run-down high rise. Heraldo is not thrilled to make Wallace's acquaintance at first but over time the two develop some mutual respect.

    Ace, on the other hand, has the responsibility of a young son to contend with, exacerbated by the fact that his wife is leaving for Sao Paolo to start work as a nanny.

    City of Men  
    Offsetting these familial dramas is a raging gang war in which rival groups of street toughs take — and take back — the surrounding hillsides. It's only a matter of time before Ace and Wallace get pulled into the crossfire, suddenly finding themselves on opposite sides of the mayhem.

    The film is directed by Paulo Morelli, a longtime collaborator of producer Mereilles, and offers a tasty balance between gangland warfare and intimate character study. It also helps that Silva and Cunha are a pair of immensely likable young actors.

    MAY 27, 2008

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