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5 reviews, 90 user ratings

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City of God
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by Brian McKay

"God really must be an absentee landlord"
5 stars

Ironically named, the Brazilian slum known as the City of God is a Hell on Earth. It's a place where rape, robbery, and murder occur on a daily basis, and where acts of extreme violence have become the numbing norm. It's the kind of place that everyone wants to get away from, but where everyone goes to buy their drugs (and I do mean EVERYONE).

Amid all of this chaos is Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), a Black kid growing up in the so-called City of God, and trying desperately not to become a thug like everyone around him, including his older brother and his friend Bene (Phellipe Haagensen). As we witness what Rocket sees growing up during the 60's and 70's, we see how every aspect of life is touched by violence. After breifly trying his hand at thug life and failing miserably (he can never quite bring himself to rob any of his intended victims, after meeting them first and deciding that they are "too cool"), he finds that his only ticket out of the Ciudad de Deus is a battered camera. He finds himself caught between a news-hungry periodical and a fame-hungry crew of thugs led by nice-guy gangster Bene and his completely ruthless and sociopathic partner Li'l Ze (Leandro Firmino da Hora), who guns down enemies and friends alike with the thoughtlessness of pitching a cigarette butt.

Ironically, what Rocket thought would be his ticket out of the ghetto ends up taking him right back there, as his demanding employers and his own hunger for success and notoriety urge him deeper into the City of God's underworld. Using his childhood connection with all of his old friends (who have all grown up to be teenage drug lords), he manages to take the front-page photos that no other photographer ever could. After fearing for his life initially, when his pictures of gun-toting thugs are published without his permission by the newspaper, he is shocked to discover that the starstruck Li'l Ze adores having his picture in the paper and allows Rocket to take all the pictures he wants.

Punctuating all of this are some disturbing scenes of violence (and I don't disturb easily, folks) from which nobody is spared (in one scene, a gang member's initiation trial is to choose which of two young boys he should shoot in the head). Some terrific directing and fantastic camera work aside, the film exposes one to a seemingly endless cascade of shootings and beatings until one becomes numb - leaving the viewer with both a sense of despair that such a place exists, and a sense of relief when the film finally ends. It often muffles the graphic nature of the violence just slightly with a clever camera angle, but never pulls its punches. The cast (most of which was composed of young street kids) is uniformly credible to the point of being unsettling (especially the kid who plays the boyhood version of Li'l Ze).

Although I have only seen a handful of Brazilian films, this one continues the alarming trend witnessed in other recent films like Bus 174 and O Homem do Ano(Man of the Year) - all films that paint a portrait of a culture besieged by violence. How much of it the film exaggerates is unknown, but after hearing Man of the Year director José Henrique Fonseca divulge that he had been robbed at gunpoint five times in the space of three years, I think I'll take their word that there is some fucked-up repugnant shit going on in their country.

But while CITY OF GOD is most certainly an indictment of the evils that Brazil is beset with, one never doubts that the filmmakers love their country and people. More than anything, films like CITY OF GOD are a wake up call, both to their own countrymen and the world, that something must change. Yet the only answer it finds is the most daunting question - "How?"

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=6574&reviewer=258
originally posted: 03/05/04 00:22:41
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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
12/28/17 morris campbell good foreign cinema 4 stars
3/01/12 stanley welles an insight into a horrifying wonderland 5 stars
10/17/10 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(dhakaldipesh@yahoo.com) A perfect movie, stainless acting, spellbinding performance and stirring visuals. 5 stars
8/17/08 jonathantstorm best film ever 5 stars
8/08/08 snakeeyes Cinema doesn't get more exhilarating than this 5 stars
10/11/07 scotty One of the Greatest Films of All Time!!!!!!! 5 stars
10/15/06 Cat This should be on the top of anyones movie lists! A must see. Brilliant. 5 stars
4/29/06 Agent Sands Deserving of every bit of praise it's gotten. A truly amazing epic. 5 stars
3/14/06 Naka One of the best films I've ever seen. And that's that. 5 stars
11/21/05 Erick Echeverria it was something that made me realize a lot of things. 5 stars
10/16/05 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
7/12/05 Tom A quality piece of cinema-a must see 5 stars
6/13/05 Lelani this movie was so well shot and all the actors did an incredible job 5 stars
6/12/05 Agent Sands A major surprise. I was super-impressed by everything. 5 stars
5/23/05 J Barnes The next movie you need to watch is CITY OF GOD. 5 stars
4/19/05 Justin Whitebeaver the flim takes you on a ride to hell and back and makes you say hay lets do that again 5 stars
4/08/05 asher good 3 stars
2/20/05 Agent Sands A highly engaging, terrifically made film. And we never get Portuguese flix in America. 5 stars
12/29/04 Daveman For all its flaws, City Of God is a disturbing, honest and visually stunning film. 4 stars
12/20/04 Naka Will keep you glued to your chair and will haunt you long after you leave it. 5 stars
12/01/04 jlock Awesome Film. 5 stars
11/24/04 drfardook Yes it really is that good. All elements of the film are unbelievably well done. 5 stars
11/11/04 Andrea outstanding! Why can't Hollywood produce films like this? 5 stars
11/02/04 King James ignoring our prematurely ejaculating friend mike down there, this movie is STUNNING!!! 5 stars
11/02/04 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
10/17/04 will rogers, ivancampo.net fantastic 4 stars
10/15/04 kelle excellent film, very shocking because it is based on a true story 5 stars
10/11/04 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
9/22/04 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
7/07/04 Will that was utterly excellent. even better if you understand portuguese. 5 stars
7/06/04 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
4/16/04 Morally Sound Absolutely amazing! Beautifully filmed, stunningly real. 5 stars
4/14/04 Spencer Turner Best Movie Ever Period! Totally Engrossing 5 stars
4/05/04 Ry Guy I paid for the whole seat, but I only needed the edge. 5 stars
3/25/04 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
3/24/04 Shelley Shea Just dying to see this movie. 4 stars
3/18/04 Dale cash Brilliant. 5 stars
3/03/04 Andy Kirk One of the best films I have seen, and I have seen many.Not 1 person has said otherwise. 5 stars
2/17/04 Dennis Just to correct the critic, the favella City of God is in São Paulo, not in Rio de Janeiro. 5 stars
2/14/04 selden c. beebe extraordinary and poignant 5 stars
2/09/04 The Quirkfetch Kid Right on Suzanne! Whirring whizzing scenery had me too dizzy to read the damn subtitles! 2 stars
2/08/04 Suzanne Foster Totally mind-numbing, and that's just the frenzied scene-shifting! 2 stars
2/08/04 Brian Hansen An extremely strong social realistic movie - a movie with a lasting impression 5 stars
1/27/04 Andre Great, fabulous 5 stars
1/27/04 Shaq I loved it. 1 stars
11/04/03 Starkey Best film of the year! Don´t miss it! 5 stars
10/08/03 Jorge Xavier Excellent movie! The best I´ve ever seen! 5 stars
9/30/03 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
8/24/03 Luciano Lucindo Chaves Strong reality 5 stars
8/12/03 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
3/11/03 Aiken Drum The film was real good. 5 stars
3/04/03 james good 5 stars
3/01/03 Cynthia Its a masterpiece... shows the reality with realism! 5 stars
2/26/03 Artist Freak excellent, visceral, violent, sensual, dizzying 5 stars
2/22/03 NoMargin Long but engrossing 4 stars
2/20/03 Sweeeeet It was real good! 5 stars
2/12/03 Aloha best movie I've seen in '03 so far - a kick in the head in film form 5 stars
2/12/03 M Freaking Unbelievable! 5 stars
2/10/03 Blue Brad Thrilling, Outstanding, Awesome... 5 stars
2/04/03 Aaron Excellent...gives another perspective on the "racial democracy" of Brazil 4 stars
1/27/03 Kaminoan It sucks major balls 1 stars
1/21/03 David Brutaly realistic! Amazing editing, acting, and camera work. Kicks All Ass! 5 stars
1/20/03 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
1/19/03 Robert Rezende It will shock you. Cinema doesn't get better than this. A Masterpiece! 5 stars
1/19/03 Kaminoan This movie just did not impress me at all 1 stars
1/19/03 Leo Rezende It will shock you. Cinema doesn't get better than this. One of the best movies ever made 5 stars
1/18/03 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
1/17/03 Jose Roberto Costa One of the two brazilian best films ever made! 5 stars
1/16/03 Marcello Santi Another remarkable example of how good is the Brazilian cinematography. A masterpiece! 5 stars
1/14/03 Peter Straub An intoxicating shot of cinematic adrenaline 5 stars
1/03/03 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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