City of Men


City of God, Fernando Meirelles’s 2002 film about Rio shantytowns, was spun off into a hit TV series (something like the Brazilian equivalent of The Wire) featuring two of the movie’s youngest stars, favela-bred Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha. Now the boys are grown, and the series is being re–spun off into another film. Their characters, Ace (Silva) and Wallace (Cunha), are best friends who grew up together in the shadow of Pool Hall Hill, where Wallace’s drug-dealer cousin reigns supreme. This is an all-male world—presumably because the town’s women are off not being stupid, not getting themselves killed, and not abandoning their kids—and themes of fatherhood and brotherhood are particularly resonant. Neither Ace nor Wallace knew their fathers growing up, and after a misguided quest to discover their roots and avenge the past, they turn to each other and the future, recognizing that they are each other’s best chance to escape the entrancing violence of gang warfare, rendered here with an entrancing rhythm and logic of its own. Paulo Morelli directs capably, with a heavy dash of MTV-generation flair: hyper-saturated colors, close-ups of skin glittering with sweat, and a constant patter of gunfire that undergirds the soundtrack like a steady heartbeat.