City Of Men, a coming of age story set in the bubbling favelas of Rio de Janeiro, is the tale of slum-beautiful redemption that City Of God should have been. The follow-up to Fernando Meirelle’s 2003 Academy-Award winning classic stars best friends Acerola (Douglas Silva) and Laranjinha, a.k.a. Wallace (Darlan Cunha) days away from eighteen.
The film’s theme is fatherhood; for Wallace, it comes in the form of a labyrinthine search for his father that leads him through soccer fields, local restaurants, and the prison system. For Ace, the fatherhood falls on the opposite side of the branch as he reconciles responsibility of his newborn son.
Mireille captures the same tropical gangbang culture that transformed City Of God into an instant cult classic. We see more of the peculiarity of Brazilian hoods where gangsters bust their guns in broad light, take a nice dip at the beach, and play barefoot soccer all on the same day.
City Of Men’s conflict derives from two set mates turned bitter rivals who divide the town into a violent clash for territory. Ace and Wallace are caught in the middle with entangled alliances to both sides. Their friendship faces the ultimate test, however, when the two discover a dark secret about their own fathers’ pasts.
City Of Men still suffers from the spell of excessive violence and limited character development in the villains. Still, each character’s struggle to escape the gang-ridden drama is genuine. Ace’s girlfriend is whisked away with the opportunity to make thirty thousand dollars and migrates miles away from home, leaving Ace to bring up a child by himself in the belly of the beast.
Wallace and Ace’s extenuating issues with fatherhood keep each other in check; Ace urges Wallace to visit his father’s government subsidized one-room flat, and Wallace, in turn, dissuades Ace from walking out on his own son. With strength of their camaraderie, they begin to break the circles that plagued their own childhoods.
Only the gangbangers in City Of Men don’t get much of a fair deal. Viewers don’t get a clear understanding of depth or motivation of these menacing hoodlums. We don’t know why they are driven to violent territorial conquests or even if they feel remorse for the mayhem they cause.
Yet, the film’s two young protagonists emerge from the fray and grow from neglected children to optimistic adults. So, City Of Men closes with the favelas spitting out the seeds of slum dissent that grow into two youngsters’ fertile promise for a better life.
City Of Men Trailer