Published Feb 29, 2008Compared 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 ones status as a deadbeat dad, but when Laranjinhas father resurfaces (and his connection to Acerolas 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, its completely unbelievable and as cinema, its parasitic on its model (and presumably the TV show on which its based) without having the chops to look like anything but a pretender. But when you consider that City of God doesnt 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 isnt 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)