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CITY OF MEN

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Darlan Cunha, Douglas Silva, Jonathan Haagensen, Rodrigo Dos Santos, Camila Monteiro, Naima Silva, Eduardo BR, Luciano Vidigal, Pedro Henrique, Vitor, Vinicius Oliveira
Director: Paulo Morelli
Audio: Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: Miramax
Features: See Review
Length: 106 Minutes
Release Date: July 1, 2008

“F**K YOU ALL! THE HILL IS MINE!”

Film ***

After first experiencing the remarkable City of God, which remains my favorite foreign film to date, I never would’ve pictured any sort of follow up. Interestingly enough, in the same year it was released, a cable-based television series premiered that served as a continuation of that film’s depiction of violence-plagued Rio De Janeiro. That series has evolved into the feature length, and similarly titled, City of Men.

Let’s face it, no matter how hard a filmmaker tries; City of God is going to be a tremendously hard act to follow. And yet, director Paulo Morelli has made the best possible follow up/companion piece to Fernando Meirelles’ masterpiece. Though this movie does serve a reminder that City of God was a much more masterful film, City of Men does deliver some amazing power of its own.

Like the TV show, the film follows teenagers, and lifelong friends, Ace (Douglas Silva) and Wallace (Darlan Cunha), through the slums of Morro da Sinuca. Ace is on the verge of turning 18 and already has a young wife and a child, though he has yet to accept the responsibilities of adulthood. Wallace, meanwhile, is extremely desperate to track down the father he’s never known.

As if the two weren’t going through enough already, they happen to reside in a particular slum that is ridden with nothing by drugs and gang warfare. It’s an everyday way of life, but it turns out that a brutal war is about to break out. All it takes for this to happen is drug warlord Midnight (Jonathan Haagensen) being betrayed by an all too ambitious lieutenant, Nefasto (Eduardo BR).

As a result of this betrayal, Midnight is expelled from the slum. And since Wallace happens to be the drug dealer’s cousin, this means he and Ace have to flee the hill as well. But Midnight plots to retake control of “The Hill” with help from the gang of another drug dealer.

Like City of God, this film displays a great deal of impact through its unique visual style and camerawork. Lots of high-contrast imagery finds its way into the frame, and just looking at the vast variety of oversaturated colors and film stock is most invigorating. Like the first film, the technique brings a great deal of authenticity to the proceedings.

Another element worth pointing out is the harsh and realistic violence, which was plentiful in City of God. City of Men is just as hard to watch. It’s a sad illustration of what the citizens of Rio De Janeiro have to endure, and it really upsets me to know that such brutality exists in this world.

In short, it’s all too pointless to compare City of Men to its predecessor, because no sort of follow-up to City of God is going to be anything near superior. But while it could’ve been a cheap re-telling of the earlier film, this companion piece manages to be a noteworthy and quite powerful film in its own right.

Video ****

This Miramax release boasts a remarkable video presentation that’s completely on par with the quality of City of God. The image quality is an intentionally raw and unconventional approach, with high use of oversaturated colors and various film stocks. The presentation delivers in delivering a most authentic feel in the all-too realistic environment.

Audio ***1/2

The 5.1 mix does strike a lot of high notes, particularly when the realistic violence takes center stage. Numerous set pieces do provide some fantastic surround sound qualities, such as voices emerging from the side channels. Dialogue delivery is most strong as well.

Features *1/2

The only extra included on this disc is a 15 minute featurette titled “Building a City of Men”, which features cast and crew interviews, as well as a look at the sound effects work involved with gunfire. There are also a number of bonus trailers, including Tim Burton's The Nightmare before Christmas, Smart People, Lost: The Complete Fourth Season, Step Up 2 The Streets and Blindness.

Summary:

City of Men represents an unflinching continuation of the brutally realistic gang and drug-ridden slums of Rio De Janeiro. If you were blown away by City of God (and who wasn’t?), and are eager to follow this raw vision, then this companion piece deserves to be seen.

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