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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 13.33%
Average: 1.67%
Pretty Bad: 2.5%
Total Crap: 3.33%

5 reviews, 90 user ratings

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City of God
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Son of Funkenstein

"Shocking, stunning, stupefying... an awesome experience"
5 stars

City of God is a Brazilian true-life story detailing the lives (and horribly gruesome deaths) of the inhabitants of impossibly impoverished inhabitants of Rio de Janeiro's favellas. This is an arresting and unmissable cinematic triumph, peopled with affecting characters that avoid cliche, and a familiar story signposted with brutally shocking punctuation

We are introduced to our protagonist, an aspiring photographer known as Rocket (Alexandre Rodgrigues), at the end of a breathless chase through the slum streets of the City of God. And there we find him poised between the police and the terrifying tooled-up child hoodlums of the favella.

The film told in through episodic flashbacks, then spins back (from the "present" of the 1970's) to the 1960's where we watch Rocket grow up in the shadow of his brother Goose and his "Tender Trio" of small-time hoods. And we begin to see how these children, brought up in an amoral and violent environment, are sucked into criminality and violence, not as the exception - but as the rule.

In no character is this more obvious than in Li'l Dice (Douglas Silva)[/i}. Dice is a precocious child with a talent for crime, and thirst for murder. Even as he leads the older hoods into a heist of a lifetime at the local brothel, we can feel his hunger for more than simple robbery, and our suspicions are soon justified when we are shown Dice's childish glee as he undertakes a killing spree with his new gun.

What is perhaps most shocking is that this is no cinematic conceit, this is the reality of the Brazilian slum, where today, right now, child assassins are ten-a-penny, where shop keepers (allegedly
) pay off-duty police men to kill off street children like rats.

Anyhow, Dice grows up to be Li'l Ze - the terrifying gangster that he always promised to be, taking over the City's drug dealers in a day-long orgy of murder. He is accompanied by lifelong friend Benny, who is "the coolest hood in the City", and also the only force capable of stemming Ze's bloodlust.

Rocket continues to struggle to avoid the criminal life, frankly he doesn't have what it takes, and whilst he abhors the hoods and their murderous ways, eventually it is his relationship with them that gives him his first big break as a photographer. (Rocket is revealed to be well known - in Brazil - photographer Walter Rodriguez).

More than the overall story arc, which is familiar and well worn, it the punctuating scenes that are most affecting. From local snitch Shorty's treatment of his adulterous wife, to Li'l Ze cajoling and threatening a small boy into murdering an even younger child for breaking the rules, from Rocket's repeated failure to commit crime, to Ze's "soviet attack" death at the hands of a gang of under-tens; City of God is littered with shocking and outrageous moments.

I wished I could turn away, I wished I could dismiss what I was seeing as fiction, but I couldn't. Even without the background knowledge of the reality of the story, the acting by a cast composed exclusively of first-timers from the actual slums of Rio is absolutely immaculate. Their energy and believability is incredible and the director handles them beautifully to deliver, without fail, exceptional performances from central and supporting characters alike.

This is not a film you are going to forget in a hurry. Trust me, this a film that you HAVE to see. Funny, shocking, touching and powerful it is what all film-makers aspire to. A masterpiece.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 08/04/03 20:24:33
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/10/19 h g 5 stars
12/29/17 morris campbell good foreign cinema 4 stars
3/02/12 stanley welles an insight into a horrifying wonderland 5 stars
10/18/10 Vijaya Bhaskar It's a superb film... 4 stars
8/10/09 S.Satish A very realistic film. Leaves an impression in your mind fow few days! 5 stars
4/01/09 R.W. Welch Excess body count strains credulity, but pro work otherwise. 4 stars
10/07/08 C Lemon Amazing film and the documentary extra on the dvd is even more compelling and worth a look! 5 stars
9/28/08 Dipesh Dhakal( A perfect movie, stainless acting, spellbinding performance and stirring visuals. 5 stars
8/18/08 jonathantstorm best film ever 5 stars
8/09/08 snakeeyes Cinema doesn't get more exhilarating than this 5 stars
10/12/07 scotty One of the Greatest Films of All Time!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/16/06 Cat This should be on the top of anyones movie lists! A must see. Brilliant. 5 stars
4/30/06 Agent Sands Deserving of every bit of praise it's gotten. A truly amazing epic. 5 stars
3/15/06 Naka One of the best films I've ever seen. And that's that. 5 stars
11/22/05 Erick Echeverria it was something that made me realize a lot of things. 5 stars
10/17/05 DM Breathtaking, brilliantly directed and smoothly edited. 5 stars
9/13/05 ray mero Riveting technique, yes, but also deeply compassionate. Hollywood could not do this. 5 stars
7/13/05 Tom A quality piece of cinema-a must see 5 stars
6/14/05 Lelani this movie was so well shot and all the actors did an incredible job 5 stars
6/13/05 Agent Sands A major surprise. I was super-impressed by everything. 5 stars
5/24/05 J Barnes The next movie you need to watch is CITY OF GOD. 5 stars
4/20/05 Justin Whitebeaver the flim takes you on a ride to hell and back and makes you say hay lets do that again 5 stars
4/09/05 asher good 3 stars
2/21/05 Agent Sands A highly engaging, terrifically made film. And we never get Portuguese flix in America. 5 stars
12/30/04 Daveman For all its flaws, City Of God is a disturbing, honest and visually stunning film. 4 stars
12/21/04 Naka Will keep you glued to your chair and will haunt you long after you leave it. 5 stars
12/02/04 jlock Awesome Film. 5 stars
11/25/04 drfardook Yes it really is that good. All elements of the film are unbelievably well done. 5 stars
11/12/04 Andrea outstanding! Why can't Hollywood produce films like this? 5 stars
11/03/04 King James ignoring our prematurely ejaculating friend mike down there, this movie is STUNNING!!! 5 stars
11/03/04 mike it blew me too, i was so bored my g/f made me blow my load all over the back of the headres 1 stars
10/18/04 will rogers, fantastic 4 stars
10/16/04 kelle excellent film, very shocking because it is based on a true story 5 stars
10/12/04 Naka Absolutely everything one could ask for in a movie of this kind. SPECTACULAR! 5 stars
10/10/04 tj Excellent and thought provoking 5 stars
9/23/04 the Grinch I agree, more Dickens than Scorsese. One of the best movies I've ever seen! Flawless! 5 stars
9/02/04 psycho dwarf Not even Dickens coulda done these kids justice. Has to be seen to be believed. 5 stars
7/08/04 Will that was utterly excellent. even better if you understand portuguese. 5 stars
7/07/04 Forget Hollywood.... damn... that was amazing. I didnt know brazilians could make movies like that! 5 stars
6/27/04 Brad Amazing camera work, character development, and plot. Great! 5 stars
6/10/04 EL PAPALOTE Iliked the movie but i hated the subtittle 4 stars
4/17/04 Morally Sound Absolutely amazing! Beautifully filmed, stunningly real. 5 stars
4/15/04 Spencer Turner Best Movie Ever Period! Totally Engrossing 5 stars
4/06/04 Ry Guy I paid for the whole seat, but I only needed the edge. 5 stars
3/26/04 LIAM JACKSON Li'l Ze was the human incarnation of evil. it was good to see him go down in a bullet hail. 5 stars
3/25/04 Shelley Shea Just dying to see this movie. 4 stars
3/19/04 Dale cash Brilliant. 5 stars
3/04/04 Andy Kirk One of the best films I have seen, and I have seen many.Not 1 person has said otherwise. 5 stars
2/18/04 Dennis Just to correct the critic, the favella City of God is in São Paulo, not in Rio de Janeiro. 5 stars
2/15/04 selden c. beebe extraordinary and poignant 5 stars
2/10/04 The Quirkfetch Kid Right on Suzanne! Whirring whizzing scenery had me too dizzy to read the damn subtitles! 2 stars
2/09/04 Suzanne Foster Totally mind-numbing, and that's just the frenzied scene-shifting! 2 stars
2/09/04 Brian Hansen An extremely strong social realistic movie - a movie with a lasting impression 5 stars
1/28/04 Andre Great, fabulous 5 stars
1/28/04 Shaq I loved it. 1 stars
11/04/03 Starkey Best film of the year! Don´t miss it! 5 stars
10/09/03 Jorge Xavier Excellent movie! The best I´ve ever seen! 5 stars
10/01/03 yui a very good cutting and excitng 5 stars
9/28/03 cretik Brilliant film making! It diffinately bitchslaped a lot of Hollywood directors. 5 stars
8/25/03 Luciano Lucindo Chaves Strong reality 5 stars
8/13/03 lm a lot better than i expected.... 5 stars
7/12/03 Morally Sound One of the greatest films ever made. Brilliant! A true masterpiece! 5 stars
4/29/03 Kyle If you have a chance to see this - I urge you, DO IT. 5 stars
4/05/03 John Bale Episodic Brazilian kitchen sink - sex drugs and violence shot like a music clip. 3 stars
3/12/03 Aiken Drum The film was real good. 5 stars
3/05/03 james good 5 stars
3/02/03 Cynthia Its a masterpiece... shows the reality with realism! 5 stars
2/27/03 Artist Freak excellent, visceral, violent, sensual, dizzying 5 stars
2/23/03 NoMargin Long but engrossing 4 stars
2/21/03 Sweeeeet It was real good! 5 stars
2/13/03 Aloha best movie I've seen in '03 so far - a kick in the head in film form 5 stars
2/13/03 M Freaking Unbelievable! 5 stars
2/11/03 Blue Brad Thrilling, Outstanding, Awesome... 5 stars
2/05/03 Aaron another perspective on the "racial democracy" of Brazil 4 stars
1/28/03 Kaminoan It sucks major balls 1 stars
1/22/03 David Brutaly realistic! Amazing editing, acting, and camera work. Kicks All Ass! 5 stars
1/21/03 Cliff Oh my....This movie is like entering a haunted house. 5 stars
1/20/03 Gerard Motola A very fascinating look at the favelas of Rio 5 stars
1/20/03 Robert Rezende It will shock you. Cinema doesn't get better than this. A Masterpiece! 5 stars
1/20/03 Kaminoan This movie just did not impress me at all 1 stars
1/20/03 Leo Rezende It will shock you. Cinema doesn't get better than this. One of the best movies ever made 5 stars
1/19/03 George I'm sorry, I just don't see what all you guys are raving about 4 stars
1/18/03 Colin Selby BLOODY BRILLIANT 5 stars
1/18/03 Jose Roberto Costa One of the two brazilian best films ever made! 5 stars
1/17/03 Marcello Santi Another remarkable example of how good is the Brazilian cinematography. A masterpiece! 5 stars
1/15/03 Peter Straub An intoxicating shot of cinematic adrenaline 5 stars
1/04/03 EDS One of greatest Brazilian movies, Great plot, great screenwriting. A must see. 5 stars
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  17-Jan-2003 (R)
  DVD: 08-Jun-2004



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