City of Men – DVD Review

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When it comes to crime films, American film-makers have seemingly cornered the market in the last three decades. Ever since The Godfather came on screens, and the effects of the New Wave in French cinema disappeared from international crime films, American crime films have set the standard. In 2002 a curious thing happened: a Brazilian film raised the bar for crime films with the insanely popular City of God. The favelas of Rio have proven to be fertiule ground for another film: City of Men.

Known as Cidade dos Homens as well, the film focuses on continued misadventures in crime and love in the Rio slums. Throw in some criminals killing one another for turf and/or other petty things, gorgeous cinematography and a gritty feeling and you have a solid, if unspectacular, follow up crime film.

Think Godfather 3 as opposed to Godfather 2 in terms of being a crime sequel, but the film is much closer in spirit because of its themes about fatherhood and growing up to Boyz N the Hood than any of the classic gangster films of the last twenty years.

And while the film retains much of what made City of God a masterpiece and one of the best films of this decade, it doesn’t quite cut its own niche out from the first film. Everything that happens, and how it happens, takes a lot of its cues from City of God. It takes so much from it that film that it gets a little distracting; there’s no moment where you don’t think that this could be excised material from it, which isn’t a good thing.

With a lot of the same cast, and a portion of the same crew, it’s not surprising. And it’s interesting as well, with strong characters and unexpectedly good acting. On its own it is in the same category as a minor crime classic like Gone Baby Gone was last year; destined to be overlooked by loved by those who find it.

City of Men is a tough, gritty film that’s a solid compliment to City of God but doesn’t touch the level of greatness the latter film aspires to.

Presented in a widescreen format, with Dolby Digital audio, City of Men has a stellar a/v transfer. With lots of gorgeous cinematography, as well as some intense action sequences, the DVD brings out the film’s grit in a way that one imagines that only being in the slums of Rio can only top. For a film that had a limited release and was almost shunted directly to DVD, despite the name recognition City of God has among film buffs and art house theater aficionados, it has a top rate transfer.

Building a City of Men follows the production of the film version of the television series. Getting down and dirty by filming in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the film grew out of City of God and the success it had. Originally made into a television series in Brazil with some of the same characters, the film version of City of Men follows the television series but isn’t directly a part of it per se. It’s interesting to see Morelli, who was a part of City of God, behind the camera for this one, as he has a unique energy that comes out from the few snippets he gets in this feature. It’s also interesting that the crew of the television series came aboard for the film, giving it the same look and feel. The tech crew that handled the film’s audio has their own interesting segment where they discuss how they wanted to set the film’s audio up; nailing the realism was their main goal, trying to add in little sounds like guns falling to the ground, to make the film’s audio work.

Sneak Peeks for Smart People, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare before Christmas, the fourth season of Lost, Blindness, Step Up 2 The Streets and a generic one for Miramax projects are included as well.

Beautifully shot and crafted, City of Men is a solid compliment to City of God. For fans of that film, this is a wonderful companion piece that looks back again at the same world that inspired a modern cinematic masterpiece. It’s a must see for fans of crime films as well, but not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination. It’s quality cinema but isn’t for the weak of heart.


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Miramax presents City of Men. Directed by Paulo Morelli. Starring Douglas Silva, Darlan Cunha, Jonathan Haagensen. Written by Elena Soarez and Paulo Morelli. Running time: 106 minutes. Rated R. Released on DVD: July 1, 2008. Available at

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