6 March 2005 | debblyst
Satire on the bourgeoisie aimed at Brazilian military regime and launched new stars
"El Justicero" is the nickname of Jorge Dias das Neves (blond star Arduíno Colassanti, in his film debut), the womanizer-but-socially-aware-playboy son of a general (Álvaro Aguiar), who uses his father's influence during the military regime (which had begun in 1964 and would last until 1985) to act "Robin Hood", helping bums, whores and students against police investigations, and whose life consists of enjoying the petit bourgeois milieu of Rio de Janeiro WHILE making fun of it. Jorge meets a left-winged intellectual nicknamed Lenine (Emmanuel Cavalcanti) who wants to make a film about him, but things turn out unexpectedly when Jorge falls in love with socialite Ana Maria (Adriana Prieto, also in her film debut at age 16!!) and has to face hypocritical social conventions in his own interest.
Based on popular playwright João Bethencourt's novel "As Vidas de El Justicero", this was the 5th feature film of famous Brazilian filmmaker Nelson Pereira dos Santos. NPS directed THE Brazilian landmark film of the 50s "Rio 40 Graus" (1955)(q.v.), which successfully transposed Italian Neo-Realism to Brazilian cinema and was the inspiration for the "Cinema Novo" ("New Cinema") movement of the 60s. He also directed the great classics "Boca de Ouro" (1962) and "Vidas Secas" (1963 - hailed at Cannes), which immediately preceded "El Justicero" (1967) in his filmography.
But many things had happened between 1963 and 1967 most importantly, the military regime was imposed in Brazil in 1964 and new explosive filmmakers (Glauber Rocha, Leon Hirszman, Joaquim Pedro de Andrade, Cacá Diegues, etc) were revolutionizing Brazilian and Third World Cinema, revealing the harsh social reality and injustice, using films as candid political statements remember, these were the 60s, not politically-sanitized contemporary cinema!
"El Justicero" is at times confusing, giving the impression of having been done very quickly and on shoe-string budget. It suffers from occasionally pointless dialogs, hasty editing and some poorly photographed sequences (the VHS copy cries for a restored DVD), but has many good moments - and most of all it tries to be politically relevant and have a "Sorpasso-like" sense of humor as well. It remains thoroughly watchable to this day, much more so for having introduced stars like real-life-surf-hero-and-womanizer Arduíno Colassanti, who became a sex symbol and went on to play lead roles on many NPS films; ill-fated and sad-faced beauty Adriana Prieto, who already showed her very unique screen persona and went on to star on many seminal Brazilian movies until a road accident killed her at 24 in 1974; lovely 18-year-old Márcia Rodrigues, who was next to be chosen for the title role of "Garota de Ipanema" (The Girl from Ipanema, 1967, directed by Leon Hirszman). In minor roles, NPS gave in "El Justicero" first jobs to some of the busiest actors in years to come, like Tânia Scher and Hugo Bidet.
Seen today, "El Justicero" remains a sort of document of Rio de Janeiro's petit-bourgeois dolce vita in the mid-60s, when then incipient military regime was thought to be but a passing cloud and not the dark heavy torment it became in 1968 (with suspension of civil rights) that lasted through the mid-80s. Recommended for fans of NPS, Cinema Novo, Colassanti & Prieto, and the Rio of the 60s. My vote: 6 out of 10, and the rating surely could go higher when/if a restored copy in DVD comes along.