City of God (2002)

Directors Kátia Lund and Fernando Meirelles have created an open-world masterpiece that to this day has no equal with the making of – City of God.

‘City of God’ or better referred to in Portuguese as (Cidade de Deus) is based on a 1997 semi-autobiographical novel written by Paulo Lins, about three young men and their lives in Cidade de Deus.

The novel was hailed by critics as one of the greatest works of contemporary Brazilian literature and took Paulo Lins around about 8 years to complete.

However, in the film City of God – we follow the events surrounding two boys who are brought up in a sadistic neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. They adopt diverse professional paths, with one of them becoming a photographer and the other boy becoming a drug dealer.

Now that you understand the core elements of the story, let’s get into what makes – the City of God so great and still relevant to this day.

First of all, I’ve watched numerous movies throughout my life, however, none of them have brought the genuine authenticity that this movie brings.

The film is so great at its world-building and open-world energy that you don’t get the sense that you’re watching actors on a screen but valid legitimate everyday people going through the same hardships in life as you or anyone else for that matter.

Secondly, it’s so rare to see a town or environment in a movie that grows alongside its characters and this is what I believe the directors captured marvelously, only amplifying my interest in the film and keeping my attention at an all-time high because I want to see how everything ends from its once humble beginnings.

From the very start of the film, you’re shown kids as young as 5 or 6 years old firing a gun and running after a chicken in broad daylight as if it’s normal, but you as the audience already know better than that, it isn’t normal but it’s the unfortunate reality of how these kids grew up.

Sure, the City of God may not be for everyone in the sense of how real everything is. There are drugs, violence on a whole different level, rape, killing, and corruption from the police at every turn.
There is this one scene that still stuck with me even today, where the cops are searching for a young man called Clipper played by Jefechander Suplino for robbing a motel with his buddies Goose, Shaggy, and Lil Dice.

During the police search, Clipper returns from hiding in the woods and walks straight passed the police officers with another man walking behind him, only for the police officers to ignore Clipper and shoot at the innocent man who panicked and run away after having guns pointed at him.

What the cops decide to do after that is appalling, once they realize that the man is innocent and had nothing to do with the motel incident, they frame the innocent man whilst lying dead on the floor by handing him a gun to make it seem if he shot at them first.

Not to mention, they took all of the money that the man had on him and put it into their pockets to spend later on, simply inhumane and disgusting at best.

Now let’s talk about the main villain of this movie, Lil Ze.

Lil Ze from the jump is a character that has a few loose screws on him. There is orchestrated chaos, and there is also disorganized chaos but Lil Ze is neither of these, Lil Ze is simply Chaotic Chaos that neither causes distraction for the better of anyone nor anything but for his amusement.

He neither has a plan of what to do once he achieves his goal, which is to become the number one hood (gangster) in the City of God but achieves his goal he shall, simply because he thought about it and wanted it for himself.

The value of one’s life means absolutely nothing to this man, even going so far as to shoot dead his bodyguard for talking too much when he told him to keep quiet, keep in mind that Lil Ze is only around the age of 18/19 years old at this time.

There’s so much to unpack and diagnose about this character and so many highlights that illustrate his childishness, yet the fear he imposed onto the community was undeniable.

One key highlight moment of Lil Ze, would be when he raped the girlfriend of Knockout Ned played by Seu Jorge right in front of him then on his way back to his base thought to himself “Why did I let him live”? Only to return to Knockout Ned’s premises and kill his little brother and Uncle.


Or how about we talk about the moment he decides to go after kids, shoot them both in the leg, and hands over a gun to his youngest member in the crew who’s about the age of 6, and then lets this young kid decide which kid to kill and who to let go off?

The ludicrous nature of Lil Ze at this point, I simply cannot comprehend, however, the environment itself plays such a pivotal role in making kids admire the life of guns, drugs, and violence as the key to a better life. What could be worse than poverty?

Lastly, what makes City of God a masterpiece among the greats is that it’s not a movie about one specific person, it’s a film about the City and the people living within it. It’s like the city itself is saying, “I’m not the one stuck in here with you, it’s you who are stuck in here with me”.

Sadly, no one is safe from the violence, and whether you decide to leave or join the gangs, the city has you trapped in its clutches and is willing to sacrifice anyone at any given time.

On that note, I plead with you to watch this amazing spectacle, it’s riveting, the story is captivating on every level, and the characters are heartbreaking and real. This is one of those few legends that even 21 years later is still ably relatable to everyone regardless of race if given the chance.

If I had to address everything that occurs in the film, my review would never end, and I would be spoiling you with all the fun and exciting events that you haven’t heard of, so go out there and watch it.

For this, I give City of God 5 out of 5 ratings.

Let me know in the comments below whether you agree or disagree with my review of the City of God. I’d love to hear your opinions and suggestion for future films.

Until next time, thank you for reading another review from, LSR.

Stay Blessed.City of God
Star Ratings

Kátia Lund & Fernando Meirelles

A friend of mine gave me the book and said that it was an amazing piece and that I should shoot the film. In the beginning, I wasn’t interested because I didn’t like action films and I didn’t know anything about drug dealers. But I decided to read the book and it was amazing. I was shocked, because I live in Brazil and the story seemed like it was taking place in another place and era. It didn’t seem like it was 1997 in Brazil, so I wanted to understand and show that world. But I did the film thinking about Brazilian audiences. I never thought the film would be an international project.

Two boys are brought up in a sadistic neighbourhood of Rio de Janeiro. They adopt diverse professional paths, with one of them becoming a photographer and the other boy becoming a drug dealer.
  • Alexandre Rodrigues
  • Alice Braga
  • Douglas Silva
  • Phellipse Haagensen
  • Leandro Firmino
  • Darlan Cunha
  • Jonathan Haagensen
  • Seu Jorge
  • Rubens Sabino
  • Roberta Rodrigues
  • Renato de Souza
  • Emerson Gomes
  • Daniel Zettel
  • Graziella Moretto
  • Jefechander Suplino
  • Thiago Martins
  • Matheus Nachtergaele
  • Karina Falcao
  • Mauricio Marques
  • Sabrina Rose
  • Gero Camilo
  • Miramax
  • Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
  • SPI International
  • O2 Filmes
  • VideoFilmes
  • Globo Filmes
  • 2h 13mins

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