City of Men

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A spin-off of the Brazilian television series that was itself derived from Fernando Meirelles' 2002 art house hit "City of God," this film directed by longtime Meirelles collaborator Paulo Morelli similarly explores the sex- and violence-drenched lives of those living in the slums, or favelas, of Rio de Janeiro.

"City of Men" revolves around two of the central characters from the series, Ace (Douglas Silva) and Wallace (Darlan Cunha). Both approaching their 18th birthday, the best friends are coping with separate crises: the former is struggling to raise the young son he sired far too early, while the latter is desperate to track down the father he never knew. When Ace discovers the identity of his own father's killer and Wallace finally reconnects with his dad, a hardened ex-con who has skipped out on his parole, it sets off emotional repercussions affecting their friendship, as does a local gang war involving Wallace's cousin in which they find themselves on opposite sides.

Less hyperkinetic and more character driven than its predecessor, "City of Men" ultimately is not fully involving enough to sustain interest, though it offers plenty of undeniably pungent atmosphere along the way. From the rickety shantytowns perched in the hills to the sun-drenched beaches to the music clubs throbbing with loud dance music, the film delivers a visceral sense of its milieu, with the hand-held cinematography matching the restless energy of the characters on display.

Elena Soarez's screenplay blends melodrama, comedy and violence to sometimes awkward effect, but director Morelli keeps the pacing fast enough to compensate for the stylistic inconsistencies. And the youthful cast delivers terrifically naturalistic and convincing performances that provide the proceedings with an emotional immediacy not always evident in the script.

CITY OF MEN
Miramax
Fox Film, Globo Filmes, O2 Filmes
Credits:
Director: Paulo Morelli
Producers: Paulo Morelli, Andrea Barata Ribeiro, Bel Berlinck, Fernando Meirelles: Executive producer: Mariza Figueiredo
Director of photography: Adriano Goldman
Production designer: Rafael Ronconi
Music: Antonio Pinto
Costume designer: Ines Salgado
Editor: Daniel Rezende
Cast:
Wallace: Darlan Cunha
Ace: Douglas Silva
Madrugadao: Jonathan Haagensen
Nefasto: Eduardo BR
Heraldo: Rodrigo dos Santos
Cristiane: Camila Monteiro
Camila: Naima Silva
Running time -- 110 minutes
MPAA rating: R
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