Movie Reviews
11:03 am
Mon March 17, 2003

City of God

The character development of gang leaders is remarkable, given their number and complexity, and cinematographer Cesar Charlones' almost-MTV quick cuts give a vitality necessary to depict the murder and mayhem of the poor but strong.

Scorsese on steroids: Fernando Meirelles' "City of God" is more like "Goodfellas" than "Gangs of New York, " but the gritty urban swaggering, gratuitous violence, and lost innocence are there. Rio is New York with favelas even poorer than Harlem's at its worst. Yet the energy and romance of young people of all ages digging out of poverty through crime is there as it was so long ago in Buenel's "Los Alvidados." Latinos just do better than gringos in making poverty and crime a story worth something.

From the very first sequence, where narrator Rocket stands like DiCaprio in front of the gang and slowly morphs into his younger self to tell the story from the beginning, Meirelles establishes the art and romance of Rocket's story. It will go from lonely child to wary photographer amidst a carnage of city crime unmatched recently except for "Amores perros."

The character development of gang leaders is remarkable, given their number and complexity, and cinematographer Cesar Charlones' almost-MTV quick cuts give a vitality necessary to depict the murder and mayhem of the poor but strong.

Benny, L'il Ze, and Knockout Ned are but a few of the colorful and fated leaders to people this sprawling cautionary tale. Unlike their counterparts in "Gangs of New York," they are fully defined and developed, sympathetic and fated, no small feat for a director unknown to film-going New Yorkers.

The new president of Brazil, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, commented that this film showed a need for change now.

The ironic title, "City of God," says it better.