Thursday, July 24, 2003

Watched City of God today. Amazing show. Funny but poignant as well - and all the more so when I realised that it was based on a true story. Spoilers will litter this review, so unless you're the kind of person where knowing what's going to happen will not lessen your enjoyment of the show, don't read!

City of God is a Brazilian movie, entirely in Portuguese (which is strangely dissimilar to Spanish). The narrator, Rocket, grew up in the slums, surrounded by hoodlums and gun violence. Starting from his childhood, he relates the tale of Lil' Dice, a gangster under the age of ten and how his ideas led to him taking over the city, growing up to become Lil' Ze, ruler over most of the city and its drug dealings. Along the way, other people's stories are also related - Shaggy, the teenage hoodlum who trusted in Lil' Dice when other teens belittled him, and who eventually tried to escape from his life of crime when he fell in love, but failed and paid with his life. Goose, Lil' Dice's best friend and right-hand man, who became the city's coolest hoodlum after undergoing a makeover to become a playboy, and who kept the peace between Lil' Ze and Carrot, the only other gangleader in town, though with much smaller numbers. KnockOut Ned, the peace-loving bus-conductor who eventually became Lil' Ze's nemesis and led to the former's downfall.

It's all related in a rather MTV-like style. Scenes are frozen and the story suddenly diverts into another person's tale, if the time is right for us to hear it. The pacing is very fast as well. Things just happen so quickly, that you're swept up by all the events in the movie, leaving you with no time to think. There are terribly funny moments, such as when Benny is chasing after a drug addict, and you learn later on that it's not because he wants revenge or just to murder him. Rather, he wants to be like the drug addict - with his cool clothes and hairstyle. There's another one where we see Rocket "flirting with crime" where he tries to earn money by doing it the traditional way - but he can't because all his chosen victims (KnockOut Ned, a pretty girl and a marijuana-smoking driver) are too cool that they don't deserve to be held up. There are tender moments as well - such as the relationship between Rocket and his brother, another hoodlum. And as mentioned earlier, sad ones too. The sight of kids killing kids, and all the senseless violence does get to you despite the light-hearted manner in which the narrator is presenting it. The scene that got to me the most was the one where Lil' Ze forces one of his kid gang members, Steak, to kill a rival kid gang member. Steak looks sick to his stomach having to do so, with his victims crying their eyes out. It's a harsh and brutal scene.

All in all, I did enjoy the movie. I don't think I'll watch it again anytime soon though. It is a little depressing, but once I recover from that, I'll probably be able to watch it again - the funny parts are terribly funny after all.

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