City of Men or Cidade dos Homens is like a cousin to City of God, immersing one into the turbulence of life in the favelas or slums of Rio de Janeiro.
Based on the 2002 TV series, Paulo Morelli's picture incorporates much of the same cast and crew of Fernando Meirelles's dynamic tale.
Elena Soarez's sensible, if didactic screenplay centers around "Ace" and "Wallace" done sympathetically, if intense and courageously by Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha, respectively.
These older teenagers, just entering adulthood have much going on their lives. Ace is married and has a young son, while Wallace wants to be more committed to Camila (Naima Silva). He's trying to bond with his missing father (Rodrigo dos Santos) whom he just located.
Ace and Wallace begin to be pressed with tough decisionmaking after trouble brews with Wallace's extremely self-centered, imperious cousin (Jonathan Haagensen). The latter's control is rigorously tested by his chief minion, an excitable Eduardo BR.
The documentary-like realism highlights a story, ignited mostly by Silva and Cunha who have an effective rapport. The production is hardly showy, reflective of its antecedent, and the lurid, intimate nature of the enterprise is distilled a bit to keep the viewer connected.
One of the revelations presented by Morelli and Soarez is the co-habitation of the armed gang members and the larger segment who are more subdued of the working-class variety. The problem for the "youngsters" is that they have little direction or models in their lives with many males having met their demise. Many probably wonder if they'll live much past their teenage years.
Even if City of Men feels better suited to the small screen, less gritty and too episodic, one is drawn into the reality of the instability that threatens a longtime closeness. It may be as simple as acting out one's inhabitions, haply letting go of a gun.
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