City of Men (2008)
City of Men (2008)

Genre: Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 46 min.

Release Date: February 29th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Paulo Morelli Actors: Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha, Jonathan Haagensen, Camila Monteiro, Naima Silva, Eduardo BR

 


 

T

ense gang wars and conflicted youths trying to escape fateful adversity in the bustling streets of Rio de Janeiro made for a mind-blowing experience in “City of God” (2002). In the sequel, “City of Men,” the location is still just as tragic and absorbing, but the story often wanders into the realm of generic action flicks. Nicely shot and excellently acted, this follow-up (technically a theatrical successor of the “City of Men” television series) nevertheless suffers from the success of the former entities; it simply had too much to live up to. Perhaps intimidated by that fact, it becomes a lengthy melodrama rather than a competent continuation in examining a highly cinematic territory and its spontaneous denizens.

Dead End Hill is carefully guarded by Midnight and his gang of gun-toting thugs, who ruthlessly defend the patch of building-tops in the favelas of Brazil. The platoon never leaves their dominion for fear of losing it in an attack. But when Fasto, an ambitious gang member, abandons Midnight after the boss gives too many objectionable orders, the defector rounds up an opposing faction to attempt to overtake the coveted district.

Meanwhile, in honor of their 18th birthdays, best friends Ace (Douglas Silva) and Wallace (Darlan Cunha) go in search of Wallace’s father (Rodrigo dos Santos), hoping that it will fill an empty spot in the young man’s life. Ace must concurrently deal with his semi-successful wife, who plans to leave to earn money in a neighboring city, and begin raising his infant son by himself – a responsibility he feels too young to manage. As the two men embark on their quest, they’re unwittingly caught up in the Dead End Hill gang war – on opposite sides – as it ravishes the families and homes of Rio de Janeiro.

The most appealing aspect of “City of Men” is that it largely stands alone and apart from “City of God,” making it unnecessary to have seen that previous film in order to understand what is happening – particularly because most of the characters here are continuations of roles developed in the TV show, for which pertinent reiteration is provided. Through casual flashbacks and character interactions, the foreign setting and culture is explained quite comprehensively, alongside adequate character development for each of the protagonists. Sadly, this time around, their plights are not as pressing and the chaotic turmoil is not as inspired or resonant. But in the background remain the recurring socioeconomic themes of children/innocence mixing with violence and the inefficiencies of government/oversight to assist with the funding of public schools, the creation of worthwhile jobs, and, perhaps most of all, role models for wayward adolescents.

The most upsetting thing about the theatrical presentation has nothing to do with its filming at all. The white subtitles flashing at the bottom of the screen are completely washed out during numerous shots of broad daylight (chiefly during the last half of the film), which severely inconveniences those who like to actually read the words. Being dependent on subtitles has never helped a film’s exposure, and this unforgivable nuisance certainly won’t change that pitfall. But on a less technical level, “City of Men” is not a bad film; it just doesn’t bring anything more to the table than was offered up by the award-winning programs that preceded it. Watching it merely whets the appetite for revisiting the former productions – a trait far too common with sequels.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10