If you run, you're dead...if you stay, you're dead again.
City of God (Cidade de Deus) is a 2002 foreign biographical crime film directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, written by Bráulio Mantovani, produced by O2 Filmes, VideoFilmes, Hank Levine Film, and Globo Filmes, and distributed by Globo Filmes and Miramax Films. it is based off of Paulo Lins's 1997 novel, City of God. It stars Alexandre Rodrigues and Leandro Firmino da Hora. It was nominated for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing, but did not win any of those.
"It was like a message from God: "Honesty don't pay, sucker."" - Rocket
Growing up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, young Rocket witnesses his brother and their gang dominate the streets of the city of God. As Rocket grows older, gangs grow larger, until things escalate into an all-out street war that endangers all the citizens of the city of God.
My Favorite Part of City of God
I watched City of God in my Film Studies class immediately after watching Goodfellas, and I understand the comparison between the two. City of God acts as a lower-budget, grimier version of Goodfellas that doesn't have the glitz and glamour of the Italian mob. This film does a fantastic job of just throwing you into the chaos and discomfort of streets that are dominated by gangs. Li'l Z, the gang leader that acts as the main antagonist of the movie, was utterly terrifying. He was an amazing villain, and I was shocked that he had not gained recognition, because I thought he was a great character. He was probably my favorite part of the movie.
My Least Favorite Part of City of God
Like Goodfellas, this film doesn't really have much wrong with it. It's definitely not your traditional movie, considering that it is a Brazilian film, so there will be things about it that feel off or abnormal, but that's just because watching a foreign language film is a little more difficult than watching an American movie. That's not really a negative. It's just worth noting. On a technical level, this movie is near perfect.
Why City of God is Fantastic
Like I said, this film acts as a lower-budget and grimier Goodfellas. However, I think this film is more meticulous. The story feels a little bit tighter than Goodfellas. There's a thriller element to City of God that Goodfellas doesn't have. I'm not saying that City of God is better than Goodfellas: they are both great in their respective ways. The directors of this movie just knew how to make you feel like you were right in the middle of these gangs. You feel dirty and gross after watching this movie. The way the story plays out is just really well done. There are things that happen in the beginning that you completely forget about that come back and payoff in the finale. That is genius screenwriting.
Final Thoughts and Score
City of God genuinely surprised me with how much I loved it. Foreign films are not my rodeo, but this movie left me near speechless. It was amazing, and I am definitely now considering giving more foreign films a chance. I am still in awe. This movie was great, and I highly recommend.
I will go Sweet here. Age range is 16+.
SWEET N' SOUR SCALE
Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)
"City of God"
Fun Factor: 8.5/10
Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund
Rated R for strong bloody violence, language, alcohol and drug use, sexual content, frightening images, disturbing themes, thematic elements
Released on August 30, 2002
2 hours and 10 minutes
Alexandre Rodrigues as Rocket
Leandro Firmino da Hora as Li'l Z / Lil Dice
Phellipe Haagensen as Benny
Matheus Nachtergaele as Carrot
Seu Jorge as Knockout Ned
Jonathan Haagensen as Shaggy
Renato de Souza as Goose
Jefechander Suplino as Clipper
Alice Braga as Angélica
Darlan Cunha as Steak with Fries
Daniel Zettel as Tiago
Roberta Rodrigues as Berenice
Charles Paraventi as Uncle Sam
Luis Otávio as Young Rocket
Douglas Silva as Young Li'l Z / Lil Dice
Michel de Souza Gomes as Young Benny