CITY OF MEN (Paulo Morelli). 106 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (February 29). Rating: NN
If you’re going to set your movie up as the sequel to a genuine work of art, it had better be worthy of the franchise.
Five years ago, the ambitious, electrifying City Of God exploded across North American screens, a Brazilian Goodfellas set in the favelas outside Rio de Janeiro.
City Of Men trades on the name, but only the location is the same; this movie follows a spinoff television drama, picking up characters and situations from the show and using clips as flashbacks.
Its narrative focuses on the friendship between teenagers Ace (Douglas Silva) and Wallace (Darlan Cunha), cousin of local gangster Midnight (Jonathan Haagensen). About to turn 18, Wallace wants to find his father and legitimize his identity. Unfortunately, he has the bad timing to enlist Ace in his quest just as Ace’s wife saddles him with their child – and as the favela explodes in a turf war between Midnight’s gang and a rival faction.
As in the first film, guns blaze and sweat glistens, but director Paulo Morelli doesn’t have the knack for pacing or detail that Fernando Meirelles – credited here as a producer – brought to City Of God.
And while Adriano Goldman’s sun-dazzled visuals convey the same sharp sense of place, the characters running around the favelas don’t register with the same impact. City Of Men can’t help but pale in comparison to the spectacular original.