A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Young gangsters take up combat and retaliation, essentially without any oversight by urban authorities or parents; in fact, most adults are either gangsters themselves, ex-cons, or victims. The film does differentiate between gangsters showing moral development (and seeking escape from the cycle) and those who only want to commit more mayhem.
Violence & Scariness
Violence is both casual and explicit. Kids wrestle and fight in playful ways but also engage in brutal behavior that includes beatings, combat-style shootouts, and ambushes in the city streets (with automatic weapons, from rooftops, hiding in alleys), as well as point-blank shooting. Wounded victims are bloody. Repeated images of kids with guns. When Ace is given his first gun, he's excited -- then he witnesses a shootout and won't fire his weapon. A boy learns that his father shot a friend's father in the back.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Women appear in bikinis and skimpy clothing (sometimes showing cleavage) on the beach and during street/rooftop parties. Brief blurry sex images in a bed (movement shown but figures not explicit). Ace has sex with various women at his workplace (he's a security guard); there are brief images of them on his lap and some kissing. Wallace flirts with his girlfriend; he also tells a story about a girl seducing him.
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Multiple uses of "f--k" (some with "mother"), "s--t," and "damn," as well as "hell," "prick," "p---y," and "ass" (some with "hole"). All language is in subtitles.
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Products & Purchases
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drinking and cigarette smoking at a bar; some gang members smoke marijuana several times. Someone wears a T-shirt that says "Tequila."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that the main characters in this subtitled drama are young (some don't look older than 10), impoverished gangsters in Rio de Janeiro who commit frequent acts of bloody violence. Along with wrestling and fighting, there's shooting (with both handguns and automatic weapons), standoffs, and ambushes in the streets; one gang burns down a woman's house because she's related to an enemy. There are several sex scenes, but they're brief and blurry (movement is obvious, but nudity is muted). Girls wear bikinis on the beach, and boys comment on their looks. Language includes frequent uses of "f--k" and other profanity. Characters smoke cigarettes and marijuana and drink liquor. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
City of Men is an affecting blend of action movie, coming-of-age tale, and family melodrama. It's billed as a companion piece to Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund's brilliant, thrilling City of God, which was an art-house sensation when it came to the United States in 2002. The new film actually draws from characters developed in that film's inspiration, the mesmerizing, same-named Brazilian TV series -- which explains how City of Men is able to include scenes of Ace and Wallace as kids. These images show how their friendship has endured during years of bouncing around in impoverished neighborhoods where boys become men by wielding guns and claiming territory.
While Paulo Morelli's movie isn't as kinetic as City of God, it offers an equally fascinating look at kids' emotional lives and moral choices and their struggles to think beyond their apparent fates. Ace's anxieties about fathering are reflected in Wallace's reunion with his own dad; quickly enamored of the idea of having a father, Wallace imagines an existence apart from the gangs -- just as long-simmering tensions erupt into full-on street battles. The kids on the periphery, like Ace and Wallace, are trapped. Equipped with artillery and hand-drawn maps, the teams take over the alleys and rooftops as civilians hide. But for all its tragedy and brutality, City of Men is shaped by the uneven, difficult rhythms of fathers and sons and the boys' determination to connect across years of pain and legacies of revenge.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.