Reviews - City of God (2002)
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City of God (2002)

Genres: Crime, Drama

Taglines: If you run, the beast will get you. If you stay, the beast will eat you

Director: Fernando Meirelles, Kátia Lund

Writers: Paulo Lins, Bráulio Mantovani

Stars: Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino, Phellipe Haagensen, Douglas Silva, ...

Brazil, 1960s, City of God. The Tender Trio robs motels and gas trucks. Younger kids watch and learn well...too well. 1970s: Li'l Zé has prospered very well and owns the city. He causes violence and fear as he wipes out rival gangs without mercy. His best friend Bené is the only one to keep him on the good side of sanity. Rocket has watched these two gain power for years, and he wants no part of it. Yet he keeps getting swept up in the madness. All he wants to do is take pictures. 1980s: Things are out of control between the last two remaining gangs...will it ever end? Welcome to the City of God.

100 | Richard Corliss

The film is seductive, disturbing, enthralling -- a trip to hell that gives the passengers a great ride.
Read More: Time

100 | Megan Lehmann

Like a bomb exploding in a fireworks factory: It's fierce and shocking and dazzling and wonderful.
Read More: New York Post

100 | Marjorie Baumgarten

A marvelous achievement that refuses to avert its gaze from the poetry and the insane savagery of the hopeless.
Read More: Austin Chronicle

100 | K.J. Doughton

Meticulous in its descriptions of well-intended individuals caught up in these ferocious waves of street crime.
Read More: Film Threat

100 | Shawn Levy

An exhilarating slap in the face, bracing and sexy, smart and visceral, stylish and raw -- the advent of a fabulously exciting new moviemaking talent.
Read More: Portland Oregonian

100 | Lawrence Toppman

One of the most uncompromisingly bleak films I've ever seen.
Read More: Charlotte Observer

100 | Stephen Hunter

It's a trip to Hell and back, and testimony for embittered cynics of all that a movie can be.
Read More: Washington Post

100 | Keith Phipps

The film finds a surprising amount of tenderness and humor beneath the brutality. The laughs may catch in the throat, but that's only a byproduct of City Of God's power to leave viewers breathless.
Read More: The A.V. Club

100 | Roger Ebert

Breathtaking and terrifying, urgently involved with its characters, it announces a new director of great gifts and passions: Fernando Meirelles.
Read More: Chicago Sun-Times

100 | Desson Thomson

One of the most startling, grittily brilliant films in recent years.
Read More: Washington Post

100 | Mark Caro

A visual and aural feast that combines elements of classic gangster melodramas, crime epics such as "The Godfather" and playful non-linear narratives such as "Amores Perros," City of God explores a deadly culture while feeling more alive than anything that's hit the big screen in years.
Read More: Chicago Tribune

90 | Stephen Holden

As the movie's frenetic visual rhythms and mood swings synchronize with the zany, adrenaline-fueled impulsiveness of its lost youth on the rampage, you may find yourself getting lost in this teeming netherworld.
Read More: The New York Times

90 | Jean Oppenheimer

Emotionally gripping from start to finish, the movie presents an electrifying and unforgettable look at life in a place that God has all but forgotten.
Read More: Dallas Observer

88 | Mike Clark

This is one movie in which you don't feel the long-ish running time, in part because there always seems to be a surprise (as well as a new street guerrilla) around every corner.
Read More: USA Today

88 | James Berardinelli

Despite the grim, serious nature of the subject matter, Meirelles unearths occasional moments of humor, although they are often of the gallows variety.
Read More: ReelViews

88 | Carrie Rickey

An epic docudrama - electric and raw.
Read More: Philadelphia Inquirer

83 | Lisa Schwarzbaum

Undeniably powerful, the work also comes with its own built-in shield against feeling any one character's difficulties too deeply, or for too long.
Read More: Entertainment Weekly

80 | Ken Fox

A tightly woven tapestry of extraordinary breadth, and director Fernando Meirelles's control over the material is extraordinary.
Read More: TV Guide Magazine

75 | Octavio Roca

Brutal, tough to watch but impossible to ignore.
Read More: San Francisco Chronicle

75 | Rick Groen

In God's ghetto, as in so many of the world's forsaken places, warring armies of infants brandish their weapons of self-destruction, while politicians bluster and inspectors sleep.
Read More: The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

75 | Jack Mathews

For those who didn't get enough violence from Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," welcome to City of God.
Read More: New York Daily News

70 | Staff (Not credited)

Predictably, the violence is overwhelming. But the massacres are glamorized, and the characters look like they're posing for tourism posters.
Read More: Chicago Reader

70 | David Edelstein

It's sensationally well-made: skittery and kinetic, packed with mayhem, yet framed (and narrated) with witty detachment, so that the carnage never seems garish. The film is far from a work of art, but it marks the emergence of a great new action superchef.
Read More: Slate

70 | Michael Atkinson

Nothing if not confrontational.
Read More: Village Voice

70 | David Rooney

The impressive filmmaking craftsmanship and sharp storytelling skills make this two-hour-plus epic fly by.
Read More: Variety

67 | William Arnold

It takes a strong stomach to sit through its two-plus hours of non-stop brutality (much of it involving very small children).
Read More: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

63 | Michael Sragow

A razzle-dazzle lower-depths melodrama.
Read More: Baltimore Sun

60 | Kenneth Turan

A potent and unexpected mixture of authenticity and flash -- even if this is what happened on the ground, making it worth our time on screen is just beyond the contortionist abilities of even this most acrobatic of films.
Read More: Los Angeles Times


Meirelles's picture is so keen to brandish its social wrath, and its spirits are so rampagingly high, that the bruises it inflicts barely last a night. [20 January 2003, p. 94]

60 | John Powers

But if City of God whirs with energy for nearly its full 130-minute running time, it is oddly lacking in emotional heft for a work that aspires to the epic -- it is essentially a tarted-up exploitation picture whose business is to make ghastly things fun.
Read More: L.A. Weekly

50 | Wesley Morris

Full of action, but no soul.
Read More: Boston Globe

50 | David Sterritt

In its cinematic approach, though, the film is as slick as any Hollywood thriller, directed by Fernando Meirelles with visual flourishes - jazzy editing, lurid colors, crackling sound effects - that dilute the impact of what might have been an indelible cautionary tale.
Read More: Christian Science Monitor

50 | Peter Rainer

Undeniably powerful, but also rather numbing.
Read More: New York Magazine (Vulture)