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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

City of God
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by EricDSnider

"A wildly energized film set in the depths of society."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2003 SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles tells the true stories in "City of God" with the urgency of a man possessed. The film has a mad energy about it, the sort of sweaty fervor we associate with the legendary parties of Rio de Janeiro, except these people are not celebrating life. They're desperately trying to maintain a grip on it.

Set in the gang-controlled slums of Rio, "City of God" focuses on a handful of young people -- children, really -- whose destinies as hoodlums seem predetermined. In the beginning, there is Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), who finds himself being advanced upon by a gang he has apparently angered. The camera swirls around him and we are taken back in time, to the 1960s (the "present" was the 1970s), when he was a kid playing soccer. Rocket, narrating the film, tells us we have to see how it all started, to see the early lives of the characters to understand how they came to be where they are now.

The Tender Trio, as they called themselves, consisted of Rocket's brother Goose and his friends Shaggy and Clipper. They are ill-fated. Rocket himself tries to avoid the life of crime, but the life of crime is unavoidable.

We encounter Li'l Dice (Douglas Silva), whom we will later see -- the film is often told out-of-sequence, frequently doubling back on itself -- laughing with malicious glee as he perpetrates a horrific act. This is a chilling moment, but it pales in comparison to a later scene where Li'l Dice, a little older and now called Li'l Ze (now played by Leandro Firmino da Hora), is the boss of the slum and he forces one of his underlings to choose which of two very young boys to kill.

We also meet Ze's friend Benny (Phellipe Haagensen), who is too nice to be a hood and who balances out Ze's coldly evil personality. We see how Rocket, who wants to be a photographer, clings to the hope that he can avoid his brother's fate, that he can make it out of the City of God alive.

The cinematography and editing of the film are exciting, giving it a style that is distinct and visceral, perfectly complementing the operatic stories. Meirelles follows the example of "Pulp Fiction," depicting a lot of violence in several multi-layered stories without actually showing a lot of it on the screen. When it's over, you'll have the impression that the film was far more gruesome than it actually was. In this world, life is inherently violent, even in the rare moments when the city is calm.

Many of the actors are actual kids from the slums depicted, with little or no previous acting experience. Meirelles and his co-director, Katia Lund, felt it necessary for authenticity's sake to find young people whose souls were mired in the problems being examined, and it pays off wonderfully. Though "City of God" is occasionally difficult to watch, it is even more difficult to look away from its vivid characters, gripping stories and stimulating visuals.

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originally posted: 03/18/03 19:32:52
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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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