Blu-ray Review: CITY OF GOD

The FilmCity Of God is all too often cited as the Brazilian Goodfellas. While it€™s a fine comparison to have made towards the film - there€™s far more to it than simply following in the footsteps of Scorsese's classic. Yes, it has an epic narrative which spans multiple decades and charts the lives of a group of criminals - but Fernando Meirelles€™ 2002 masterpiece has its own distinctions which make it culturally and thematically unique. Scorsese wouldn€™t begin a movie with Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro chasing a fleeing chicken through the streets of New York. It€™s also significant that City Of God€™s characters aren€™t drawn to the glitz and glamour of criminality - instead drawn to the path as a way to break free from their oppressive and poverty stricken slum backgrounds. There€™s true horror in the films portrayal of gang culture, with even young children driven to touting handguns and murdering civilians. Beginning in the late 60€˜s, City of God immediately depicts a myriad of young characters who are already living a life of petty robberies and armed stick-ups. Known as the €˜Tender Trio€™, the actions of the gang are watched over by Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), who plans to avoid a path of crime and aspires to become a photographer. But, things aren€™t that simple - as his older brother Goose (Renato de Souza), is already engaged in criminal activity as a member of the Trio. From these early acts of violence, things spiral irreversibly out of control when the young and impressionable Li€™l Dice (Douglas Silva) massacres a number of civilians following a rudimentary stick-up by the other members of the Trio. Along with his friend Benny, Li€™l Dice overthrows the members of the trio and grows up to become the leader of a major drug-empire and an imposing figure with a fearsome reputation of violence under the new name of Lil€™ Ze (Leandro Firmino da Hora). The wars between the gangs of Cidade de Deus continues to affect Rocket€™s life throughout the following decades of the 70s and 80s - with no clear end in sight to the conflict. While Rocket serves as both the main protagonist and the narrator of the film, it€™s astonishing how every character in City of God makes a significant impact. The world depicted on screen is vibrant and detailed - with all of its characters having significant motives and their own stories to tell. Even a discussion between two women about the sexual advantages of a warm banana is memorable, despite its overall insignificance to the plot. But while the film is effortlessly constructed in this way, it€™s the performances from its largely unknown cast that help make these characters so believably engaging. The portrayals of both young and old Lil€™Dice/Zee from Douglas Silva & Leandro Firmino are particularly memorable, depicting a chillingly violent but compelling trigger-happy criminal. The scene in which the power driven gang-lord forces a young hoodlum to execute an innocent child of his choosing is almost unwatchable. It€™s also visually stunning - being a film which despite its relatively long runtime shoots by at the speed of a bullet. Cinematic flourishes like high-angle shots, photographic snapshots, split-screen and even at one point, a point of view shot from a misfired bullet - City of God's Oscar nominated cinematography is energetic and inventive. Moments such as €˜the story of the apartment€™ sequence - which charts a transformation from brothel to drug den all from a static shot - are astonishing in and of themselves. While many films of this scope and length have problems juggling the multiple characters and ambitious scale - especially to a foreign audience - Meirelles film is never anything less than utterly engaging. From beginning to end, City of God has you gripped in its shocking and tragic world, and deserves to be considered a genre classic to sit alongside films like Goodfellas and Scarface - worthier of more than mere comparison. Rating: 5/5Visuals City Of God certainly looks decent in high definition with a colourful and vibrant transfer that€™s undoubtedly a major step up from those seen on DVD. Yet it€™s also heavy in grain, perhaps unavoidably so - with the film being shot in a realistic and gritty documentary style. Occasionally stunning, but other times underwhelming - it€™s an average HD transfer. Rating: 3.5/5Extras Sadly nothing new, with the existing features simply carried over in standard definition. What this does mean however, is that the superb documentary, News From A Personal War is here - delving into the real life violence which has inspired the film - and showcasing just how realistic City of God actually is. There€™s also a EPK style short interview with director Fernando Meirelles which is all too brief to be of any real substance. Rating: 2.5/5Overall City of God remains a kinetic and visually exciting gangster film, with strong characters and an epic multi-decade spanning narrative. But with no new added content and mixed bag of a transfer - City Of God makes for something of an underwhelming Blu-ray as it nears its 10th anniversary. Final Rating: 3/5 _______ City Of God is released on Blu-ray today.

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Cult horror enthusiast and obsessive videogame fanatic. Stephen considers Jaws to be the single greatest film of all-time and is still pining over the demise of Sega's Dreamcast. As well regularly writing articles for WhatCulture, Stephen also contributes reviews and features to Ginx TV.

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