This is like the paradise of violence…
Inspired by a true story, City of God is a crime-drama movie about violent gangs and rivalry in a small slum in Brazil, as told by our protagonist, Rocket. The film explores Rocket’s journey since childhood through adolescent, where we see his family, his friends, his daily activity among the ongoing violence around him.
To box City of God as another Scorcesese-esque crime movie is a blasphemy. The film shares the familiar tone of Hollywood’s crime movies, but when it’s blend with local Brazilian culture, altogether it is a very different film. Let’s take the opening scene for example. It started out with a gang of thugs hanging around a side way restaurant, where group of chickens are about to get butchered and fried. The next thing you know, one of the chickens escaped and was chased by the thugs that lead us to our protagonist and thus started the film with Rocket as our film’s narrator.
The two-hour film is fast-pace, adventurous and thoughtful. I especially like the grim and dingy setting the film has, as it adds a “realistic” look to the already heavyhearted script. As I mentioned above, City of God is based on a true story about a young man who grew up in the middle of violence and poverty in a small, lawless area. The film, which is based on a book, is nothing if not depressing. Although you won’t feel much during the ride, thanks to the clever directing by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, the film hits me like a brick once it ends. The scene where we see small kids waving heavy-loaded guns to the air will leave you feeling haunted and indirectly wondering whether you have just seen a commercial film or a documentary work on violence in third world country.
Now let us talk about the direction. As cliché as this sound, I like to watch a clever film. I am not saying Hollywood crime films aren’t smart, but it’s predictable. The generic formula of this genre is to focus on character building, where hours made up of long lines and serious acting is set to take place on your screen, trying to convince you that you have just watched a thoroughly planned film. It’s not a bad thing, but it can be daunting after a certain times. However, with City of God, I don’t feel the same pressure. The Brazilian film even go as far as to be funny and naïve at times, which I think is intentional to balances its dark atmospheric theme the movie has going.
Overall, City of God turns out to be a nice foreign surprise. If you are looking for a different kind of crime film, maybe it’s time to consider this award-winning film.