STUDIO: Miramax
MSRP: $19.99
RUNNING TIME: 106 minutes
“Building A City of Men” – Behind The Scenes Featurette

The Pitch
A follow-up movie to the follow-up TV series of the original film Cidade de Deus (CITY OF GOD), which was a gripping depiction of life in the crime-ridden favelas of Rio de Janeiro. Diminishing returns? Maybe.


The Humans

Director: Paulo Morelli
Cast: Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha, Jonathan Haagensen, Rodrigo dos Santos, Camila Monteiro, Naima Silva

The Nutshell

A pair of teens (Ace, Lara) in Morro da Sinuca go on a hunt for their respective fathers, a gang leader (Madrugadão) gets exiled from his home turf after his right-hand man (Fasto) goes for a power grab, Madrugadão plots revenge with help from a neighboring drug kingpin, Ace and Lara’s friendship stumbles and is renewed, life goes on in Rio.

University of Florida student Andrew Meyer continued to get fucked by fate.

The Lowdown

Right off the bat, it’s more like Boyz N The Favela than City of God, but with a less intriguing storyline. The tone of the movie seems bipolar compared to the darker approach of the first film and the dramedic angle of the TV series.

There are a few scenes that come off as incredibly awkward, such as the initial beach scene where Ace and Lara accidentally leave Ace’s son Clayton behind as they head off on a lark to suddenly investigate the Mystery of the Missing Sperm Donor Dads. In one scene in particular, right after Fasto’s invasion of da Sinuca, Ace and Lara part ways under a streetlight while tracer bullets zip across the favela skyline behind them. The transition from sudden chaos to a character beat is uneven at best and it renders what could have been a more powerful scene emotionally bereft. Unfortunately, the movie seems to be plagued with moments like this. Scenes involving the brief separation of Ace and his wife Cristiane have no dramatic heft, and even the resolution of each of the boys’ fathers’ storylines is contrived and laughably convenient, as is Ace’s sudden change of character in the beginning of the third act.

The movie seems to work best when it’s dealing in the few action sequences offered here. Madrugadao’s escape down a busy freeway tunnel bathed in amber light is impressive, as are the subsequent foot-chase scenes where Ace is pursued by Fasto’s henchmen, and the “Sacking of the Hill” shootouts in the claustrophobic, blown-out favela alleyways are well-shot and appropriately suspenseful.

“And this is how baby shadow puppets are made!”

Morelli’s work on this project is respectable, but it’d have been much more intriguing to see what Fernando Meirelles could have done with this. While his desire to move on in the film world is understandable, he handled the same concepts with such a deft hand and a keen eye the first time through that Morelli’s follow-up effort pales in comparison, especially while trying to juggle multiple storylines. On the other hand, there’s only so much you can do with a crime story based in the favelas, and it’s obvious that at this point the material was stretched as thin as possible. Ultimately, City of Men is trying to serve as a treatise on the inescapable cycle of poverty, violence, and crime in the favelas, but comes off as an extended finale episode or even a Hallmark version of the same themes that served City of God so well.

The soothing sounds of BrokenCYDE were often the only coping mechanism available for teens in Rio.

The Package

The movie is accompanied by a marginally impressive 15-minute making-of documentary called “Building A City of Men”, which goes through the expected discussion of filming in the favelas and the transition from City of God to its TV incarnation and eventually this entry.

There’s a lot of discussion about how they wanted the story to be split between three characters – Ace, Lara, and “The War” (meaning the fight between the gang factions), as well as their intent to gear the story to come from the point-of-view of the people in the favela rather than the protagonists: it’s sad that neither of these ideas really came through in the final product. If anything, the themes that they wanted to emphasize came off as an afterthought, and it’s sort of fitting that the behind-the-scenes doc is at odds with the movie itself, seeing as how the movie can’t even really find solid ground and stick with it at any given moment.

6 out of 10