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Film: City of God

Run and you'll never escape. Fight and you'll never survive.

A 2002 crime film directed by Fernando Meirelles & Kátia Lund and written by Bráulio Mantovani.

On the edge of Rio de Janeiro, in The Sixties, a housing colony is built to replace the favela shantytowns and house the many refugees of flooding. A bleak but not horrible place, its people live on the edge of society: the kids growing up there engage in petty crime that grows ever more severe as the years go on. By The Seventies, the children have become teenagers and the colony has become like the decaying shantytowns it was meant to replace.

Buscapé grows up alongside teenage gang members but limits his law-breaking to petty theft and smoking weed. He wants to be a photographer when he grows up, and to move far away from the ever-worsening Cidade de Deus. The kids who grow up in the crime-ridden Cidade de Deus turn to gangs, and the gangs turn to drugs to make money. As the biggest gangster, Zé Pequeno, declares war against the other street gangs in the slum, Buscapé can't help but get involved as violence explodes on every street. In the end, he realizes that he must leave as Cidade de Deus collapses completely and has become an all-out war zone.

The film City of God (Cidade de Deus) is based on a book by the same name by Paulo Lins (which in turn is based on some true events). After the film became popular and won awards, a TV series spin-off was made called City of Men.


Provides Examples Of:

  • Abusive Parents: Rocket's dad gives his brother Shaggy a few good smacks for getting involved in gang activity. May be Deliberate Values Dissonance since this part of the film is set in the 1960s.
  • Adult Fear: Children who still have their baby teeth are becoming gang lords, and there's nothing to stop them.
  • Age Cut: Of the "cut to younger" kind.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Subverted. Angélica *does* go for gangster Bené over nice guy Buscapé, but not because she wants a bad boy - as gangsters in the film go, Bené's a relatively benign one, and Angélica asks him to give up the gangster lifestyle soon after they've gotten together. The same is true of Cabeleira's (Shaggy) girlfriend in the opening section. Zé, meanwhile, is unable to get sex without paying for it or forcing himself on a woman, despite being as bad as bad boys get (and getting plenty of respect for it from other gangsters).
  • Amateur Cast: With some truly powerful performances, it's actually quite shocking that only one of the characters (Carrot, a relatively minor role) had ever acted before. Almost everyone else was an actual resident of the Brazilian favelas.
  • Anti-Villain: Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned), arguably to the point of scarcely being a villain at all.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Most of the police are on the take, and those who aren't don't care enough to enforce the law in Cidade de Deus.
  • Badass Mustache: Dadinho is an ambitious, heartless kid. As soon as he's old enough, he becomes a psychotic crimelord, changing his name to Zé Pequeno. He also grows a mustache for the occaission, marking his coming of age.
  • Beauty Equals Goodness: Deconstructed. As Buscapé puts: Zé is ugly and Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned) is handsome. However, as the latter becomes more and more He Who Fights Monsters, the line between Good and Evil becomes a little blurred.
  • Berserker Tears: Lil' Zé, after Benny's death.
  • Bittersweet Ending: There is a variation of this. Zé is dead. Buscapé is alive, well and manages to become a photographer. However, most of the people who also deserve some sort of punishment are left on the run, Cidade de Deus is still a wretched hive that it will be the field of another even more terrible gang war. Oh, and Mané Galinha and Bené, the only sympathetic gangsters, are dead as well.
    • Downer Ending: For the future of Cidade de Deus and its citizens, as it's about to be taken over by practically feral children who don't understand that Zé's rule at least kept the city somewhat in check.
  • Black and Gray Morality: It's a deeply depressing movie, and the sympathetic characters are morally problematic. Morality doesn't get much blacker than Zé Pequeno however.
  • Black Comedy: When it's not being deeply depressing, it can be a pretty funny movie.
  • Bodyguard Betrayal: Both of Knockout Ned's and Zé Pequeno's fates.
  • Book Ends: The film starts and ends with a truck getting robbed.
  • Boom, Headshot: Thiago's death.
  • Break the Badass: Happens to Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned).
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • received a necklace when he "became a man". He was told not to wear it when having sex, or he would die. Much later, it is his rape of Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned)'s girlfriend, while he wore the necklace, that put him in the situation that led to his death.
    • Subverted in scenes surrounding Marreco's gun. When we first see the gun in The Sixties, Marreco is hiding it in a drawer and tells Buscape to never touch it. Later, in The Seventies, Buscape takes the gun with him during his "flirtation with crime"; however, the gun is never fired or even used in a crime.
  • Chekhov's Gunman:
    • Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned) first appears as a very friendly guy who works on a bus and reveals through conversation that he was a former member of the Brazilian Special Operations Brigade, and ridiculously overqualified to kick the ass of anyone who tries to screw with him. He later becomes one of the movie's focal characters and a main villain. Buscapé does state that Mané's story will come later, but then he says that about everything in the film, so it still fits the trope.
    • Also Knockout Ned's killer, a young boy whose father was shot by Knockout Ned during a robbery.
  • Children Are Innocent: Averted. Lil' Zé (called Dadinho at the time) goes on a senseless killing spree in a whorehouse/motel when he is only 12 years old. At the very end of the film, Lil' Zé gets his well-deserved Karmic Death at the hands of The Runts (Caixa Baixa), a group of even younger kids whom he bullied.
  • Child Soldiers: The subversion of the above trope leads to this, obviously.
  • Children Forced To Kill: Has an infamous example in which a ganglord forces one small child to kill his even younger friend after they steal from him.
  • Clucking Funny: The chicken chased around in the film's opening /ending even got in the poster.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: So much that (at least in Brazil) the most famous line is "Dadinho é o caralho, meu nome agora é Zé Pequeno, porra!" (translated as "Dadinho my ass! My name now is Zé Pequeno, dammit!")
  • Coming of Age Story
  • Crapsack World
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Lil' Zé
  • Cycle of Revenge
  • Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster: Subverted/deconstructed in the case of Zé Pequeno and his gang, who become (relatively) rich and respected via their lifestyle, but between trying to extend their power and fighting off would-be rivals don't have time to enjoy it. Averted in the case of Bené and Cabeleira (Shaggy), who realize the lifestyle is brutal and dangerous and try to get out as soon as they have a chance.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: Rocket and Angélica.
  • Dirty Cop: Instead of arresting Zé Pequeno at the end, the cops rob him of his jewelry and turn him loose again. There are also scenes in the beginning where the police kills innocent bystanders by accident, then simply shrug and plant false evidence on them.
  • Dirty Coward: Shorty.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The reason why Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned) becomes a Fallen Hero.
  • Dissonant Serenity: Lil' Zé's breathless laughter as he guns down innocent patron and workers at a motel is the first indicator that he's an irredeemable sociopath.
  • Fallen Hero: Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned), to the point of becoming an antagonist.
  • Gang Bangers: The street gangs in Cidade de Deus are of the drug-wealthy but definitely lower-class variety.
  • Gangsta Style
  • Guns Akimbo
  • Gun Twirling: Lil'Zé does it.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Lil' Zé and Benny in the first half of the movie.
  • Here We Go Again: The movie ends with the group of young street boys seen throughout the movie as they make a "death list" of the biggest drug dealers and forming their own gang.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned)'s campaign of guerrilla justice against the street gang responsible for the rape and murder of his girlfriend slowly turns him into exactly the type of person he had been hunting.
  • How We Got Here: See In Medias Res below.
  • Infant Immortality: Averted on several occasions.
  • Initiation Ceremony: Zé initiates some runners, but but one of them is shot in the foot and forced to kill another of his choice before they can do so.
  • In Medias Res: The story starts about fifteen minutes before the end of the movie, before the climatic scene unfolds you're told the who's who and what's what that take up most of the rest of the movie.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Rocket is the only person willing to go into Cidade de Deus and take pictures of the crime that goes on there.
  • Ironic Echo: "What makes you think it's yours?"
  • Ironic Echo Cut
  • Ironic Nickname:
    • The Tender Trio (Trio Ternura), what a good name for a gang!
    • Giant, the smallest of the children in the Runts.
  • It's Personal: Knockout Ned declares war on Lil' Zé after Zé and his gang come to his house and kill his brother and his uncle, and Zé rapes his girlfriend.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: As above, Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned) originally insists on a Thou Shalt Not Kill rule during robberies, but after Carrot (Cenoura) saves his life by shooting a guard, the exception becomes the rule.
  • Justified Criminal: Almost everyone.
  • Karma Houdini: The corrupt cops. Also a (sad) case of Truth in Television.
  • Karmic Death: Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned), Neguinho (Blacky) and Zé.
  • Klingon Promotion: The only real way to move up in a gang is when someone above in the hierarchy gets killed.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • After spending his life clawing his way to the top, Zé dies with nothing; his gang's defeated, he's lost all his money, and he's gunned down by the very people he abused in a filthy alley. In short, he loses it all. Now that's Karma.
    • Knockout Ned breaks his own moral code and kills an innocent man. That man's son is the one who kills him.
  • May-December Romance: Rocket loses his virginity to a woman about twice his age.
  • Mob War
  • Monochrome Casting: Definitely averted. Brazil is a highly diverse, multiethnic society and the cast reflects that, with skin tones ranging from pale and redheaded (Thiago) to light brown (Angélica) to about as black as it gets (Lil' Zé, Rocket).
  • Mood Whiplash: The scene where Shorty's wife is getting sex advice is actually pretty funny. A few minutes later, she's buried alive by her husband for cheating on him.
    • Benny's going-away party is fun and lighthearted, with Rocket commenting on how he managed to bring all sorts of groups together. He's dead within minutes as well, although his death is practically telegraphed.
    • Rocket getting the shot of Zé's gang posing with their guns at the end of the film feels oddly lighthearted in contrast to the dark and violent scenes of the film. Then the final battle happens.
  • Morality Pet: As Jerk Ass as Goose was, he cared about his brother Rocket, and wanted him to study and stay out of criminal life, making him promise to never use his gun.
  • Morality Chain: Bené to Li'l Zé.
  • Montages: Many.
  • Murder by Mistake: Blacky shows up wanting to kill Zé but kills Benny by mistake.
  • No Kill Like Overkill: Ned's brother getting murdered by Zé's gang, and Zé himself getting murdered by the Runts.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: In-universe. Rocket thinks that Zé will want to kill him over his pictures getting published in the paper, but Zé's pleased by his apparent rise in fame.
  • Noisy Guns
  • Non-Indicative Name: The City of God is a pretty terrible place, and certainly doesn't come across as holy.
  • Offing The Annoyance: A Motor Mouthed gang member called Tuba gets killed by Lil' Ze for talking too much. It may be a case of Too Dumb to Live. When your boss kills people for fun, praising the skills of the guy who just killed a few of his mooks, then shot him in the arm, isn't the best idea.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Nearly all of the characters. We only hear Buscapé's official name at the end of the movie. This is Truth in Television; Brazil is very much a nickname society, and favelas even more so.
  • Pet the Dog: The only good thing about Li'l Zé is that he actually gives a rat's ass about his friend Bené. He gives Buscapé the camera because Bené would have wanted it. And he leaves Carrot (Cenoura) alone because he's friends with Bené. Doesn't make him any less of a monster.
  • Police Are Useless
  • Porno Stache: Lil' Zé.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Lil' Dice.
  • Rape as Drama: Lil' Zé rapes Knockout Ned's girlfriend in revenge, incensed that she didn't want to dance with him at the club.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Giving small children loaded revolvers? Yeah, that's how seriously gun safety is taken in Cidade de Deus.
  • Running Gag: Tuba constantly irritates Lil' Ze by talking too much. When he's finally fed up, he shoots him.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Li'l Zé and Bené, respectively.
  • Retirony: Bené is shot dead at his going-away party just before he gets out of the gangster life. And the shooter wasn't even trying to shoot him. And if that weren't ironic enough, the shooter was only even alive in the first place because Bené convinced Zé to let him live.
  • Remonstrating With A Gun
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Zé's Weapon of Choice, for one.
  • Romantic False Lead: Tiago and Bené (to some degree).
  • Sacrificial Lion: Bené.
  • Sadistic Choice: Lil' Zé offers one to a Runt who wants to join his gang: he can either shoot his friend in the hand, or the foot. And then he has to choose which friend to kill.
  • Scary Black Man: Many of the characters are (incidentally) black, but Zé stands out for being both charcoal black and having a crazed stare.
  • Scenery Gorn: The City of God itself is an incredibly gorgeous wreck.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Lil' Dice in the poster. His entire gang in this one.
  • Sex As Rite-Of-Passage: Buscapé
  • Shovel Strike: Shorty against his wife, once he finds her cheating on him.
  • The Sociopath: Lil' Z.
  • Subtitle Name Change: Many:
    • Buscapé (Firecracker) to Rocket
    • The main villain, José Eduardo:
      • Zé Pequeno ("Little José") to Lil' Zé
      • Dadinho ("Eddie") to Lil' Dice (which is also a direct translation)
    • Bené to Benny (direct translation)
    • Cenoura to Carrot (direct translation)
    • Mané Galinha ("Chicken Manny") to Knockout Ned (A Pragmatic Adaptation, since "chicken" means "coward" in English.)
    • Cabeleira ("Hairy") to Shaggy (also Pragmatic Adaptation, retaining the original sexual overtones)
    • Marreco ("Duck") to Goose
    • Alicate ("Pliers") to Clipper
    • Barbantinho ("Beardy") to Stringy
    • Filé-com-Fritas to Steak-With-Fries (direct translation)
    • Neguinho to Blacky (direct translation)
    • Tio Sam to Uncle Sam (direct translation)
  • Stop Motion Lighting: Happens during the final song at Benny's going-away party, as he and Lil' Zé fight for the camera. It's also what prevents anyone from seeing Blacky kill Benny.
  • Taking You with Me: A variation occurs at the end. Otto, one of Knockout Ned's mooks, ends up killing his leader before dying of his gunshot wounds.
  • Teens Are Monsters: Zé and his gang. Alone, he was responsible for at least hundreds of deaths.
  • Time Passes Montage: On the drug dealer's rapidly decaying apartment.
  • That Man Is Dead: Lil' Zé insists that other people call him by his new name after undergoing a religious initiation at the hands of a witch doctor.
  • There Is Only One Bed: How Rocket finally loses his virginity after trying and failing for most of the film.
  • Token Good Teammate: Bené to Zé's gang.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Bené is shot before he can completely retire from his gangster life.
  • Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Dadinho (Lil' Dice) is merely the most extreme example. Also, the Runts at the end when they avenge the death of their friend by Zé Pequeno.
  • Useless Protagonist: Buscapé. Though he meets and talks to several of the characters (and get in danger more than once) he doesn't interfere in any ways with the conflicts of the gangs, or even in the plot. He is meant to be nothing more than a witness of violence, and a narrator. His character is completely neutral: he doesn't act violent, but doesn't do anything against Ze Pequeno either.
  • Villainous BSOD: Mané (Ned) experiences this when he encounters the child of a man he murdered in Little Ze's gang. Which makes his death kind of tragic.
  • Villain Bloodbath Origin: Lil' Zé's murder spree in the hotel.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Angelica disappears after Benny's death. Clipper and Shaggy's girlfriend from the first sequence also don't meet a conclusion, though escaping gang violence is the happiest their endings can get at this point.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Subverted, since the mook's son avenges his father, killing Mané Galinha (Knockout Ned).
  • Would Hurt a Child: Lil' Zé has no qualms about shooting a little kid to make a point.
  • Wretched Hive: Cidade de Deus itself.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Other characters say this to Rocket.
    • Bene at one point tells Lil' Ze that he needs a girlfriend, which is pretty much a less rude way of this.

The CoreFilms of 2000 - 2004 The Cheetah Girls

alternative title(s): City Of God
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