City of God (2002)

Posted: February 9, 2018 at 1:46 a.m.

Lil’ Dice (Douglas Silva) is determined to be the baddest gangster in the favela in the Brazilian coming-of-age drama City of God.

There was once a time about a decade and a half ago when I visited the late great Market Street Cinema almost every weekend to watch back-to-back matinees. It was a glorious time when all five screens were playing foreign language or art house films, and you could watch great films while enjoying a glass of cabernet sauvignon with enough legroom to accommodate Shaquille O'Neal. I watched scores of excellent movies there, but City of God is easily the most personally memorable.

City of God (2002)

Cast: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino da Hora, Phellipe Haagensen, Douglas Silva, Jonathan Haagensen, Matheus Nachtergaele, Seu Jorge

Director: Fernando Meirelles; co-directed by Katia Lund

Rating: R, for strong brutal violence, sexuality, drug content and language

Running time: 2 hour, 10 minutes

Remembered by: Chris Wilks. I am a Little Rock-based digital content specialist and chairman of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival’s screening committee.

City of God was promoted as the Brazilian Goodfellas, and the description fits. It's a multigenerational story based on real events that transpired in the favelas (slums) of Rio de Janeiro in the '70s and '80s, and it follows two young men growing up in a slum where organized crime is rampant. Rocket, the film's narrator, is the younger brother of Goose, one of the favela's original hoods, and hopes that his skills at photography will one day help him escape the slum. Lil' Dice, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to be the favela's undisputed crime boss, and the only thing standing in his way are the older hoods. He rebrands himself as Lil' Ze, and begins a murderous rampage to expand his drug territory. His even-tempered and highly popular partner in crime, Benny, holds him back for as long as he can, but a full-scale turf war inevitably erupts.

There are also several ancillary storylines, and City of God is a difficult film to summarize succinctly. But it crams an enormous amount of story into just over two hours, and it's the film that I always show to my friends who complain about reading subtitles. City of God was nominated for four Academy Awards in 2003, including directing, cinematography, and editing, but had the misfortune of sharing three nominations with The Lord of the Rings: Return of The King. Having said that, if you're looking for a film that doesn't tack on 45 boring minutes of bows, smiles and hugs after its logical conclusion, I highly recommend City of God.

MovieStyle on 02/09/2018