24 March 2008 | groggo
This is a powerful 19-part fictional series, based on real events and characters, that is ingeniously filmed on the streets, beaches and the notorious favelas of Rio de Janeiro.
'City of Men' recounts the many experiences (some very funny) of two teenagers from the slums trying to remain reasonably honest while poverty, racism, gang warfare and police brutality surround them. The close friendship of the two teenagers is brought to the screen with rare intensity by Darlan Cunha as Laranjinha, a disconnected but charismatic and streetwise figure, and the often bewildered, likable and always horny ('I don't want to die a virgin') Douglas Silva as Acerola. Both of these boys are not trained actors, and were 14 years old when the series started in 2002 (it ended in 2006). It's fascinating to watch them work.
The series is bathed in brilliant day-time colour and ominous night-time danger. People in this film live close to the edge. Murder is an everyday event.
The only problem I had with the series is the rapid-fire quick cuts and the shaky hand-held cameras. If this style doesn't bother you, sit tight and enjoy the ride. For me, the sizzle and the dazzle are often unnecessary and distracting. Too much focus (literally) on style, and the messages of the film are blurred somewhat because of it.