Film Review – City of Men (2007)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 76%

Directed By – Paulo Morelli
Starring – Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha, Jonathan Haagensen, Rodrigo dos Santos, Camila Monteiro, Naima Silva, Eduardo ‘BR’ Piranha, and Luciano Vidigal

Best buddies Acerola and Laranjinha, about to turn 18, discover things about their missing fathers’ pasts which will shatter their solid friendship, in the middle of a war between rival drug gangs from Rio’s favelas.

It’s funny. It has snowed in New Jersey more than it has snowed in the last seven or eight years but my free time to watch films has been few and far between. I think it has to do with the fact that I’m actively searching for an apartment but still, I need to sit down and get back into my usual groove of 4-5 films a week. I may get to another film tonight but for now I at least made time to sit down and watch “City of Men”.

Back when my obsession with film first getting started, I would routinely come across a certain film from Brazil on lists that also included some of the greatest films of all time. That film was “City of God”. Now while “City of Men” is not a sequel in any way, it features the same producers and overall feel of “City of God”. Watching both films only reiterated one thing to me. I can never go to Brazil. I will most likely die in a gunfight over drugs that I may or may not have been involved with. Not only is the place full of gangsters and drug lords but it just seems like an overall lack of logic and compassion. People shoot people for little to no reason and because they’re such a bad shot, a few bystanders are directly in the path of the same bullets. Not for me. It is however a fascinating place to set a movie and this is why I enjoyed both films, although “City of God” is vastly superior.

“City of Men” follows two best friends as they are sucked into a world that they are clearly aware of, since they live in the epicenter of its operations, but are not prepared to handle. The film then spirals into a wave of gang on gang violence that really didn’t shock or disturb me nearly as much as “City of God” did. I mean that film was down right brutal in many different ways while “City of Men” could almost have gotten away with being PG-13. The same beautiful yet deadly Rio, Brazil is the setting for both films but in this one you really get to see how people live every day. The streets and buildings look like slums but inside people have modest luxuries such as televisions and video game systems. This was not really the case in “City of God” as that film centered on an area of Rio that police don’t even dare go into. The Rio we see in this film is more of a subdued but still very drug lord invested area. I’ll say it again, you can count me out of that vacation. I’ll keep my snow and bullet free walls instead.

The film was a little messy in the storytelling but held it together enough to keep my attention. The main focus was really the relationship between the two main leads instead of the increasing tension between the two gangs who were trying to take control of the area. Naturally the story created some twists and turns that tested the strength of the relationship between the two boys but it didn’t come off as redundant or predictable as one may assume. Mostly this had to do with the very good direction of Paulo Morelli who, with his team of editors, gave us a finished product that was able to keep the attention on the story but still be able to entertain us with some well paced action.

Overall it was dwarfed by the now infamous “City of God” but that film is considered one of the greatest foreign films of all time. It is not really fair to compare this to that but the feeling is ultimately the same. Bad things happen in Brazil. Do not go to Brazil. Stay in your room and watch Netflix like every good boring American.


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