City of Men (review)

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If you’re expecting more of the gorgeous, ugly luminosity of 2002’s City of God — Fernando Meirelles’s astonishing film about life in the desperate slums of Brazil — don’t: you’ll only set yourself up for disappointment. A companion piece to that film, and to the 2002-5 Brazilian television series also called City of Men (available on DVD, and well worth checking out), this follows on from the TV series with the stories of Acerola and Laranjinha, now 18 years old and struggling to make their way as new men in what has to be one of the toughest places on earth to grow up, a world defined by urban gang warfare that one cannot, it seems, stay above the fray of without actually removing oneself physically to another very distant place. Actors Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha as the two friends may well not be acting, or at least not much: both hail from the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, and their performances are tough and honest. But the story swirling around them is — compared to City of God and the TV series — disappointingly conventional. Chalk that up, perhaps, to Meirelles’s departure as director (Paulo Morelli takes over): it’s his wicked eye that is missing here.

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