Last Stop 174 Bruno Barreto

Last Stop 174 Bruno Barreto
Ever since City of God clicked critically and financially back in 2002, screenwriter Braulio Mantovani and his posse of Brazilian filmmaking friends have been making much of the same, with interweaving, highly convenient storylines depicting the harshness of street life and poverty in Brazil, namely Rio de Janeiro. Both Last Stop 174 and the Mantovani scribed, Walter Salles helmed Linha de Passe bowed at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival to indifference and relatively empty press screenings, suggesting that the North American fascination with these tales earlier in the decade has passed. It's not that they're necessarily bad, boasting vitality, unique aesthetics and another imperative side of the coin, they're just familiar and, to be blunt, a little draining. On the upside, both films are far superior to the propaganda-fuelled Elite Squad, which reared its head back in 2007. Last Stop 174 is essentially a drawn out dramatization of the events leading up to the real-life hijacking of Bus 174 in Rio, as featured in the 2003 documentary directed by Jose Padilha (who also helmed Elite Squad). To give extensive context, the film starts out with the mirroring childhoods of Sandro, a boy whose mother was murdered by thieves, and Ale, a boy that was stolen from his mother by a drug dealer. While Ale (Marcello Melo Junior) remains on the periphery, occasionally stealing things, shouting profanity and killing innocent folks on the motorway, Sandro (Michel Gomes) takes up the bulk of the narrative, vacillating between the injustice of the straight life and the constant paranoia and violence of the criminal life. Meanwhile, Ale's mother continues to look for her son when not getting crazy at the local church. Despite overly clichéd secondary characters, Sandro's struggle is involving, if not entirely sympathetic, given his constant dalliances with drugs and love of a sassy prostitute. Fans of darkly tragic dramas will find a crisp and professional, if flawed, film, while those looking for the sorts of things that Bruno Barreto used to direct (View from the Top, Bossa Nova), will be woefully disappointed. (Mongrel Media)