out of Five
Running time: 110
While not on the level of City of God, this is still an engaging and frequently tense drama with terrific performances from its two young leads.
What's it all about?
Based on the TV series that spun off from Fernando Meirelles' City of God, City of Men is set in the Rio favelas and stars Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha as Ace and Wallace, two childhood best friends who are about to turn 18. While Ace tries to hold down a job as a security guard so that he can take care of his wife (Camila Monteiro) and young son, Wallace spends his days mooning after a local girl (Naima Silva) and wondering about the father he never knew.
However, when Wallace's gangster cousin Midnight (Jonathan Haagensen) is attacked by his right-hand man Fasto (Eduardo BR), a vicious gang war erupts in the favela and the two boys find themselves right in the middle of it. Meanwhile, Wallace finally tracks down his ex-con father (Rodrigo Dos Santos), but his new-found relationship has serious consequences for his friendship with Ace.
Silva and Cunha are both terrific in the lead roles, their close friendship made all the more convincing by footage of the two young boys growing up together (presumably culled from the series). Their bond forms the emotional heart of the story and we care deeply about what happens to them.
Director Paulo Morelli (a long-time collaborator of Meirelles) shoots entirely on location (albeit in several different favelas), documentary-style, which gives the film a strong sense of atmosphere and authenticity. Similarly, he orchestrates some thrilling chase sequences and gunfights, with the actors darting in and around the labyrinth of tiny alleyways within the favelas themselves.
The 15 certificate means that this occasionally feels like a made-for-TV version of City of God, as both the sex and the violence are shot in a toned down fashion or occur offscreen.
City of Men is a well-made, superbly acted and emotionally engaging drama that paints a compelling picture of favela life. Recommended.
City Of Men (Cidade Dos Homens) (15)