A companion piece of sorts to City of God, the 2002 breakout that established director Fernando Meirelles as a director to watch and featured some of the same actors, including leads Silva and Cunha playing 11-year-olds in the original as 18-year-olds here. City of Men is spun off from a successful Brazilian television series of the same title with Meirelles (the creator of the television series) in the producer's chair this time around.
City of Men is somewhat more humane than City of God offering a softer take on the anarchic culture of the hillside Rio slums. Where the first movie was startling and documentary-like, this picture is more melodramatic and keeps most of the bloodletting off screen. Gone are the rapid jump cuts and shaking camera-work leaving a more traditionally structured melodrama that lacks the energy of the original but retains enough of the character elements to make it worth a watch.
The conflict that pits two fast friends against one another lands with a thud and is a little heavy handed but the film works in spite of some ham fisted writing. Armed child warriors sweeping down the steep terraced hillside like locusts in the night serves as a chilling reminder of how social decay over several generations can turn neighbourhoods into war zones. All in all City of Men rates a 6.5 or 7. Worth a look, but don't run.