“Guns are bad, mm’kay?” If there’s any lesson learned from Fernando Meirelles’ “City of God,” this is it.
“City of God” takes us into one of the most dangerous slums in the world – the City of God in Rio de Janeiro. This is a place where crime rules and children grow up snorting cocaine and holding up markets. We start out in the 60s as the City of God is newly erected for the poverty stricken. The Tender Trio figure out that crime is the only way to survive in the hood, not unlike the gangsters walking the streets of South Central Los Angeles. The Tender Trio, rob the people of the City of God with their brothers, friends and neighborhood kids watching and studying their every move.
The 70s roll around and the Tender Trio have passed on. We now focus on Rocket, the little brother of one of the Tender Trio members and Little Zé, a neighborhood kid who aspired to be bigger and better than the Tender Trio put together. Growing up watching his brother’s looting ways, Rocket discovered that crime wasn’t the life for him. Now as a teenager, he’s found that he has a love for photography and hopes that maybe this could be his ticket out of the hood. Little Zé, on the other hand, has grown to be the most vicious gangster the City of God has ever seen, completely wiping out rival gangs so that he can control the City’s drug sales.
When the 80s finally arrive, the City of God has been transformed into a war zone. Rocket is there with his camera to document the travesty as Little Zé and a rival gang declare all out war on one another. The City of God, once a last resort place for the unfortunate to reside, has ultimately been turned into a city on fire.
“City of God” shows us the harsh reality of a world that we Americans may never have known existed. When we think of Rio de Janeiro, we think of a nice, exotic vacation, not a slum run by bloodthirsty kids. Based on true events and, from what I understand, featuring actual people from the City of God, this film is quite an eye opening experience, as well as a true flesh crawler. Several people left during the screening that I attended.
Before seeing “City of God,” I heard it being compared to “Goodfellas,” not only because of the different generations of organized crime on display, but for the Scorsesesque depiction of true gangster life. Now that I’ve seen the film, I can attest to the claim that “City of God” is the first movie to come along that truly deserves such a comparison. After seeing “Goodfellas” in the theater, I was as pale as Hugh Grant’s a*s. Apply that shade of pale to me after seeing “City of God.” If you consider yourself an avid Film Threat reader, then go see this film as soon as possible. I s**t you not.