Review: City of God

High caliber poverty porn akin to Slumdog Millionaire. Crazy, fast-paced, stylish, and uncritical of the squalor and violence it depicts. It builds a mythology out of its characters, like HBO’s The Wire, but unlike The Wire, there’s no pretense of social commentary. And should there be? It’s true that atrocities are shown with unflinching honesty, but City of God doesn’t linger on tragedy, it just uses it as a launching point for fun and adventure.

Hey, I get it; good and bad occur on the same spectrum, life defies easy categorization, even the most wretched among us have moments of exuberance and glory. There was a time where this kind of life affirming nihilism used to appeal to me, but now I feel like it just exists to entertain adolescents and assuage the first world that poverty contains some kind of redeeming virtue. “Just look at these plucky wastrels making the best of whatever life hands them! You know, we could learn a lot from them.”

The police capture Li’l Zé and Carrot, planning to give the media Carrot, whose gang never paid off the police, while they steal Zé’s money and let him go. He is then murdered by the Runts who intend to run the criminal enterprise themselves. Rocket secretly takes pictures of both scenes, as well as Zé’s dead body, and brings them back to the newspaper.

Rocket is seen in the newspaper office looking at all of his photographs through a magnifying glass, and deciding whether to publish the photo of corrupt cops and become famous or the photo of Li’l Zé’s body and get an internship. He decides on the latter and the film ends with the Runts walking around the City of God, making a hit list of the dealers they plan to kill in order to take over the drug business.

Well, there you have it. Why fight corruption unless you want to be famous? Better to work for free pumping out sensationalism and gore.

I like some pretty horrifying movies, more horrifying than City of God, but what sets those apart is that they have a point of view.