City of God, Fernando Meirelles' 2002 film about Rio shantytowns, was spun off into a hit TV series (something like the Brazilian equivalent of The Wire) featuring two of the movie's youngest stars, favela-bred Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha. Now the boys are grown, and the series is being re-spun off into another film. Their characters, Ace (Silva) and Wallace (Cunha), are best friends who grew up together in the shadow of Pool Hall Hill, where Wallace's drug-dealer cousin, Midnight (Jonathan Haagensen), reigns supreme. This is an all-male world—presumably because the town's women are off not being stupid, not getting themselves killed, and not abandoning their kids—and themes of fatherhood and brotherhood are particularly resonant. Neither Ace nor Wallace knew his father growing up (although it turns out that their fathers knew each other), and after a misguided quest to discover their roots and avenge the past, they turn to each other and the future, recognizing that they are each other's best chance to escape the entrancing violence of gang warfare. Paulo Morelli directs capably, with a heavy dash of MTV-generation flair: hypersaturated colors, close-ups of skin glittering with sweat, and a constant patter of gunfire that undergirds the soundtrack like a steady heartbeat.
Our heroes enjoy a laugh between gunfire.
Opens at Lincoln Square and other theaters, Fri., Feb. 29. Rated R. 110 minutes.