Movie Review: No 18. City of God

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Movie Review: No 18. City of God

The plot thickens…

In fact, that is all this movie is – plot.

After a few Hitchcock visual adventures I had been crying out for a decent hole-free plot. But, as they say, be careful what you wish for!

‘City of God’ is based on a true story and the only apparent holes are the bullet holes. Lots and lots of bullet holes. It is the cinematic opposite of ‘North by Northwest’. Where NbN relied heavily on visuals to disguise a lacklustre plot, ‘City of God’ is a visually one-dimensional visual representation of a complex narrative. Set in the dusty streets of Rio de Janeiro’s favellas in the sixties and seventies,  and subtitled from Portugese, ‘City of God’ reads more like a good book.

The movie follows the narrator, ‘Rocket’, as he details the violent lifecycle of gang leader ‘Lil’ Ze’, from rookie hood to King amongst men. It is a story so far removed from my own life experience that it is hard to fathom. Watching it, I was reminded me of the book and film ‘Sleepers’ (another “true story”). It would seem Hell’s Kitchen and the slums of Rio are separated only by more readily accessible firearms in the latter. In fact, you could be forgiven for thinking the story is a rip-off of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’ (Editor’s note: ‘I actually meant Lord of the Flies’), as groups of young boys rapidly descend into anarchy:

What should have been swift revenge turned into an all out war. The City of God was divided. You couldn’t go from one section to the other, not even to visit a relative. The cops considered anyone living in the slum a hoodlum. People got used to living in Vietnam, and more and more volunteers signed up to die.

It is an interesting insight into the survival instincts of refugees from war-torn countries. It is hard to imagine getting used to such violence on your doorstep, yet it is the living reality of people throughout the World to this day. It is amazing how adaptable we are as humans. I hope I am never put to that test.

The most stark contrast is provided in the scene where Lil’ Ze shoots a small boy of about 6 or 7 years of age in the foot. Naturally, the boys screams and cries, but all I could think while watching the scene was “That’s exactly how I used to cry at the same age whenever I got a splinter!” I am not exaggerating when I say that I would have cried with the same intensity as this child who’s no doubt just lost a couple of toes.

For shame, Baby Mandy, for shame.

The movie takes an interesting turn as ‘Benny’ (AKA “Redfoo” of LMFAO) discovers the disco scene. For me, it was the ‘Family Easter Weekend 70s-Themed Murder Party’ all over again! As the disco lights flickered in the Rio de Janeiro club all I could picture was poor Madhuri being revealed as the psychotic floozy of a pregant naked murdress at her very first dinner with the family! How she survived that baptism of fire is beyond me. Many of the characters in this film were not quite so resilient.

Disco Fever

“Stayin’ Alive”

The story was compelling and the characters raw and real. I will definitely be putting the book on my reading list, however the film just didn’t resonate with me as I felt it should. For some reason, I was simply unable to connect with the film on an emotional level.

Perhaps when you’ve had as many splinters as I have you become desensitised to violence…

6 pumpkins.

Have you seen ‘City of God’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.

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4 responses »

  1. Great review, but here’s where I disagree.

    Only 6 pumpkins? That’s criminally low! It wasn’t visually specatular, but I don’t think it needed to be. There are a few reasons this made a great movie rather than a book. The main being that you are really confronted with just how young these people are (something you may loose track of in abook), and the conditions they live in. By the way, I think you may mean to compare this to “Lord of the Flies”, not “Animal Farm”. 🙂

    • You’re very right! I certainly meant ‘Lord of the Flies’… can I be forgiven for mistakinf that for ‘Animal Farm’? Lol.

      I can appreciate how others would rate this film more highly but it just didn’t resonate with me much at all. Great story, so-so film. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was *bored* but I couldn’t bring myself to rate it alongside some of the others.

  2. I’m yet to watch City of Gods but when we were in Brazil, everyone said we should watch it and that it’s quite true to Brazillian life. In fact, when we visited the favela, there were guys guarding the entrance and roaming around with machine guns and a number of bullet holes through many of the slum walls where these people live. It’s a whole other world…

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