City of Men
Sins of the Fathers, With Interest
City of Men is a sequel of sorts to City of God, but is directed and written by different people—giving it a completely different feel stylistically as well as in terms of content. City of God was a frenetic, in-your-face film with lurid sexuality and graphic violence that sickened even the most ardent moviegoer. You finished City of God feeling violated, yet educated with regard to the chaotic and violent life of young teens in the Favela (Shanty Town) in Rio de Janeiro. City of God was brilliant, moving, and brought to light the horror that results from poverty and corruption. City of Men lacks both the pace and the intensity that made the earlier film so powerful.
However, City of Men is a good film, even if it pales a bit in comparison with its big brother. It depicts two boyhood friends (Acerola—“Ace”—and Larinjinha—“Wallace”) who are struggling to make sense of their fatherless past and their hopeless future, under the watchful eyes of two rival gangs. The movie is a continuance of the boys’ violent life from City of God some seven years later. Much of the film is predictable. Wallace and Ace are great friends; gang wars and the discovery of a terrible family secret split them up, forcing them to pick sides in the war; yet friendship and love triumph.
The movie begins with Ace and Wallace and one of the rival gangs going to the beach. Ace brings his young son along with him, because his girlfriend has to go to work. Ace decides to leave his baby under the irresponsible eyes of a reluctant friend, and the baby is left to wander dangerously close to the crashing waves before he is symbolically swept away by the lead member of the gang. This opening sequence captures the reality of chaos for a child growing up as the child of a child without a caring father. All these boys know is the security and community of these gangs, who provide for them and look after them.
This is not unlike the situation in many of our cities right here in America. We are told by many irresponsible sources that fatherhood doesn’t matter; yet we see strewn throughout our cities and suburbs the results of a fatherless culture: men lacking courage, vision, and the manly tenderness that is able to properly lead a family. Instead we have boys that don’t grow up and display a reckless machismo which destroys both the boy and the family.
This movie is about the sins of the fathers passed on to generations of boys who can’t see life beyond the barrel of their AK47s. Both boys seek love by using women for their own need, assuaging their own pain instead of having a deep well of love from which to give.
In City of Men, the gang war is a weird background effect for two boys trying to become men by searching for the missing fathers in their lives. While Wallace locates his alcoholic father, both boys discover a secret that causes division and a hatred that may perpetuate the gang war in their own lives. In spite of this, the love the boys have for one another wins out in the end, and they find a way to reconcile their heinous past and the sins of their fathers to make for a better life for themselves and the life of Ace’s little boy.
City of Men ends with a sense of redemption that City of God failed to leave us with. It gives us a softer story, not nearly as violent or as dark as City of God. Personally, I believe that everyone should see both. They are movies that remind us of the violence that lie at the heart of everyone of us pushed up against the wall of despair.
With that said, City of Men still earns its R rating for “violent content, language and some sexuality”—and its intensity.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Mike attended a press screening of City of Men.