City of God (2002)

city of god poster 2002 movie brazilian
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great acting, great visuals, great story


Movie Info

Movie Name: City of God

Studio: O2 Filmes

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): May 18, 2002 (Cannes)/August 30, 2002 (Brazil)/March 12, 2003 (US)

MPAA Rating: R

city of god lil dice gun kid

My name is Li’l Dice…I like to kill people

In the slums of Rio de Janeiro, growing up is tough…if you live to grow up.  Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues) has his eyes of getting out of the “City of God” and making it as a photographer but even having a shot of escaping his childhood is doubtful.  Rocket finds himself unwillingly tied to Li’l Dice (Leandro Firmino da Hora) who has taken over the drug market with his friend Benny (Phellipe Haagensen) in the City of God, but drugs and violence are tied together and Li’l Dice is to find themselves in all-out war.  Knockout Ned (Seu Jorge) has gone to war with Li’l Dice…and it could mean Rocket’s salvation or his death.

Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, City of God (Cidade de Deus) is a Brazilian crime drama.  The film is based on 1997 novel by Paulo Lins.  The film premiered at Cannes and went on to receive Academy Award nominations for Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing.

city of god gang lil dice guns rio de janeiro

This is how we roll in the City of God

City of God was like a lightning bolt.  It had style, it told a great story, and it showed a part of the world that wasn’t seen or really discussed.  I remember the movie receiving buzz and being floored when I first saw it.  Years after its release, it rightfully has gained the praise and nods as one of the best films of the 2000s.

The story is compelling and told in a unique and engaging way.  Narrated by Rocket, the people and stories of the people living in the City of God are told in a way that has you interested in seeing what is coming next for them by literally teasing “this isn’t where ______ story starts”.  Despite being a movie about death and destruction there is hope with the horrors the characters scene…even if it means only one person getting out, that one person survived to become a better person.

What is also shocking about the film is that a large majority of the cast weren’t actors, but instead recruited by the filmmakers from people largely living in the area.  Though they weren’t experienced, it doesn’t show in the film.  Alexandre Rodrigues has a lot of heart as the “good kid in a bad place”, and Leandro Firmino da Hora is truly terrifying as L’il Dice.  Seu Jorge plays potentially the most tragic character since he didn’t want involved in the drug war but found himself involved by no fault of his own…also turning extremely scary.

city of god rocket camera alexandre rodrigues

How far will go for the shot?

The movie is very visual.  It is quickly edited and feels unconventional in its style.  The movie also just has a warm feel to it.  It is also a reminder that behind the beauty of a city like Rio de Janeiro, there are people suffering…and when the Olympics were held there in 2016, this movie was something I thought about a lot.

City of God is a movie that must be seen if you’ve never seen it, and if you have seen it, it is worth revisiting.  It is powerful and showcases a world that most haven’t seen or even intentionally ignored.  The movie was followed by a tie-in TV series City of Men which aired from 2002 to 2005 and returned from 2017 to 2018 and a film version of the TV series called City of Men in 2007.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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