CITY OF GOD (2002) Fernando Meirelles
People that have read my reviews knows I am not a huge fan of gangster movies. I mean I like them, and I certainly recognize the significance of movies like The Godfather and Goodfellas, but I don’t enjoy them as say, other people do. So take this from someone who is not a huge fan of the genre: City of God is one of the best.
Many reviews have linked City of God to Goodfellas and I suppose the comparisons are apt although I hate drawing those comparisons because they also draw extremely high expectations. City of God is the name given to the housing project (slums) outside of Rio De Janeiro. The story is based on a true story in which we follow Rocket who grows up in the City of God during the 60’s and 70’s. Rocket is witness to the growing up of a local gangster and ruthless killer Lil Dice/Lil Ze.
Based on a true story doesn’t tell me how much is true and it is prone to, shall we say, exaggeration in the past. But if there was a movie I believed more as being true than others it would be this one. The story is so rich with such details of the environment and of fully fleshed out characters and complete motivations that it appears that most of the basic story is genuine. There is not a moment which seems contrived or that a character does anything which does not seem in their nature.
The reason I like it so much is a reason I said before; it is a complete picture of a time and place. The violence is brutal and it is shocking to see children being killers and drug dealers. These kids are downright scary as they assume their roles as gangsters. Even more depressing is the idea that nothing really changes by the end. One set of gangsters leave, another takes its place. The very area is so sh*tty, that to many crime is the best option to these people. They are willing to accept a short but famous life than one of struggle and pain. The one glimmer of hope is the success of Rocket.
I am never all that great at a glowing review, but this really is one of the great crime movies. It may have seemed like a flavor of the month and Oscar Bait to many initially. I just watched it and I think it is a movie that will stand the test of time. Rent this movie, you will not be disappointed.