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Total Crap: 4.76%

4 reviews, 18 user ratings

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Bus 174
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by Brian McKay

"This ain’t no action movie, this is some real shit"
5 stars

Beneath its exotic “Carnival” façade, Rio de Janeiro is a city in turmoil, where the haves are greatly outnumber the have-nots, and crime and violence are all part of the daily grind. On June 12, 2000, a municipal bus was hijacked by a young robber, who turned the incident of a robbery gone wrong into a political statement.

More than analyze the events of that day, Bus 174 is an attempt to explore and indict the society that would shape a young man like Sandro de Nascimiento into a hijacker and potential killer in the first place. Tracing Sandro’s life from childhood (where he witnessed the brutal slaying of his mother by robbers), Bus 174 paints a tragic picture of a child forced to grow up either on the streets or in one of Rio de Janeiro’s appallingly overcrowded jails. After witnessing his mother’s murder and being unable to fit in living in his aunts house, he took to a life of a street kid, one of the city’s thousands of “invisible children” who steal and mug in order to eat and buy drugs. As if his life wasn’t tough enough, Sandro was also a black kid, leaving him vulnerable to the kind of racial discrimination that is just as prevalent in that country as in this one. Not to tug on the ol’ heartstrings with the tired old cliché – but it seems pretty obvious that this kid never had a chance.

Not that the filmmakers are trying to justify his actions or make him out as some kind of hero. He was obviously a troubled individual, heavily addicted, and a danger to himself and others. But he has also become an example of the symptoms which plague that nation, and a tragic reminder of a life gone horribly wrong. Bus 174 is a harrowing indictment of a nation in crisis.

Interspersed with interviews of both the incident’s survivors, and some of the police officers involved (one of them hiding in the anonymity of a ski mask and electronically distorted voice), Bus 174 painstakingly reconstructs the events in Sandro’s life which led to the moment of the botched robbery. It then takes us through every tense moment of that ordeal with news footage shot from various angles which capture the event in a way that is far more visceral than any blockbuster suspense film could reproduce.

At first Sandro’s actions are frenzied and uncertain, as he tries to hide his face from cameras by wrapping a towel around it (which keeps falling off, making the gesture useless) and making erratic demands from the police (from a rather modest sum of money, to automatic weapons, to a driver). But one of the most nerve-wracking moments comes when he makes one of the female hostages write in lipstick on the windshield of the bus the statement, “He is going to kill us all at 6:00. Help us.”

From that point on, Sandro doesn’t bother to hide his face anymore, and the hijacking becomes a political statement of vengeance against the police (who he accuses of murdering his friends in a documented “street kid massacre” that occurred several years earlier), and against the society which he feels has condemned him from birth. He threatens to kill the hostages repeatedly, shouting out "This ain't no action movie. This is some real shit!" But while Sandro is obviously in a dangerous state of mind, he is not a cold-blooded killer. When he orders one of the hostages to lay down on the floor, and appears to shoot her, it is later revealed that it was a bluff on Sandro’s part to show the cops he was serious, and the woman later left the bus unharmed.

Unfortunately, another woman didn’t get off so lucky, and her death is cast in the light of being as much the fault of an incompetent and ill-prepared police force as the hijacker they were trying to capture. The tension leading up to Bus 174’s climax is palpable, and the results tragic.

BUS 174 is easily one of the most gripping documentaries out there today, one that manages to inspire sympathy for a troubled young man without making him out to be a hero or a sacrificial lamb, and that holds the crumbling system that produced him in contempt. Exotic locales, topless beaches, and Carnival aside, BUS 174 will make you glad to have a car and not live in Rio.

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originally posted: 05/06/03 13:40:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sundance Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Sydney Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Sydney Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 San Francisco Film Festival. For more in the 2003 San Francisco Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/06/14 ezjwvRnQIR JyEHkzZHzFNqkMOGcCC 4 stars
4/12/10 Sharon Ann Chambers What's the point of the Christus statue 5 stars
11/10/06 William Goss Perpetually depressing look at unfortunate reality of abandoned Brazilian youth. 4 stars
5/25/06 Taylor Bees Rodney Hale is stupid. This sucked. 1 stars
12/21/04 Naka Absolutely amazing; a worthy companion to "City of God". 5 stars
11/19/04 Rodney Hale I rarely am hypnotized by a documentary, but this one will suck you in like no other. 5 stars
9/24/04 Kathy i was appalled by how poorly trained the police were and how disgusting the jails are. 5 stars
5/16/04 MKM This movie sucks my saggy smelly nut sack 1 stars
5/02/04 John Peters The opening shots showing the two sides of the Rio mountain from the air, were remarkable. 5 stars
4/21/04 Vicky The most gripping, edgy documentary this whole year 5 stars
4/01/04 John Williams A shocking doc that Americans should see and appreciate what advantages they really have. 5 stars
1/20/04 michel very shocking and mesmerizing documentary! 5 stars
1/01/04 mio Awesome 5 stars
11/11/03 Yansa Mira Toussaint Excellent Film!!! 5 stars
10/06/03 wczoraj na WFF wspanialy-szkoda,ze trudno bedzie go u nas zobaczyc 5 stars
7/28/03 James Benzinger Haunting and moving. Don't miss this one. 5 stars
6/12/03 William Garcia Potent, great filmmaking, even better analysis of a real life event. 5 stars
6/10/03 leo GREAT.... GO SEE IT TODAY 5 stars
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  08-Oct-2003 (R)
  DVD: 20-Jul-2004



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