City of Men Paolo Morelli

City of Men Paolo Morelli
Compared to the widely celebrated City of God, this half-baked not-quite-sequel seems dull, earnest and technically clumsy. But considering that the original was politically facile and fiendishly exploitative, the cheesy good intentions of the follow-up start to look marginally better.

A contemporary story with only thematic links to its predecessor, it gives us Acerola and Laranjinha, two close teenage friends living in the mean streets of Rio de Janeiro. Much is made of the boys’ absent fathers, a matter magnified by one’s status as a deadbeat dad, but when Laranjinha’s father resurfaces (and his connection to Acerola’s is made clear), it drives the boys apart as a gang war rages around them.

The film is melodramatic to the nth degree and offers ridiculous plot twists that would embarrass a B-list Cagney movie: as drama, it’s completely unbelievable and as cinema, it’s parasitic on its model (and presumably the TV show on which it’s based) without having the chops to look like anything but a pretender. But when you consider that City of God doesn’t have anything to say beyond "poverty exists” and "shooting people leads to badness,” the movie seems like a neorealist masterpiece. At the very least, it gives the impression that there are consequences to actions beyond fall-down-go-boom.

That said, the cause-and-effect consequences offered are mostly predictable and completely silly. Saying that this movie isn’t as well made as the original is like saying Stanley Kramer is no Leni Riefenstahl: we can quibble over whether God or Man is superior, but both have been entered into with such non-seriousness that the only obvious choice is blow off the debate and rent Los Olvidados. (Alliance)