2000’s art-house megahit City of God has officially attained franchise status—after spawning a made-for-television series, City of Men, it’s now passing a licensed spin-off of the same title along to theaters. Director Paulo Morelli, who had a hand in the TV show, looks at the favelas of Rio de Janeiro through a scrim of hissing high-contrast grain, the camera swaying with heatstroke wooziness over swaggering neighborhood kingpins.
A civil war is popping off between the longtime King of the Hill drug mogul and his first lieutenant, and the gang conscription drive starts going after uncommitted able-bodied kids, basically decent types like teen father Ace and his longtime best friend Wallace (CoG‘s child stars Douglas Silva and Darlan Cunha). They’re both about to turn 18, and mutually trying to settle questions of paternity so they can put their ID papers in order—the theme of absentee fatherhood is further elucidated through Significant Scenes (a game of hot potato with a neglected toddler) that make one retrospectively long for the outright weirdness of John Singleton’s Baby Boy. Click here to read Nick Pinkerton’s review of City of Men.