Stylishly brutal thriller sees the bullets fly in the Brazilian ghetto
DIRECTED BY Fernando Meirelles
STARRING Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Philippe Haagensen
OPENS January 3, Cert 18, 129 mins
There’s a moment in the Brazilian crime drama City Of God that says it all. It’s near the start and our hero-protagonist Rocket (Rodrigues) is standing in the centre of a dusty city side street. At one end, an excitable troop of policemen crouch behind an armoured van and point their guns in his direction while, at the other, an intimidating phalanx of street criminals cock their weapons and return the gesture. Both groups heckle each other, the former demanding that the latter disarm immediately, the latter demanding that the former go to hell. And in the middle stands Rocket, half-crouching, frozen with fear. And then it happens. We do a swift and dizzying circular dolly around the frozen Rocket, the backgrounds dissolve, he grows younger before our eyes, and we emerge nearly two decades previously with our hero on his haunches, on a dusty football field at the very beginning of the movie’s diegetic narrative.
In that one bravura visual gesture, City Of God, via flamboyant director Fernando Meirelles, telegraphs to the viewer exactly what to expect for the next two hours: an epic era-spanning urban crime saga with a penchant for breathtaking bursts of cinematographic spectacle.
Which is hardly surprising, considering the central protagonist is an aspiring photographer, and as such reflects the movie’s proudly conspicuous visual aesthetic. Rocket is the surrogate eye who documents nearly 20 years of brutal criminality inside the gang-controlled ‘City of God’ favela (housing project) in Jacarepagu