From its chicken-chase kick-off to the final corpse-strewn street battle, City Of God is an experience in the most intense sense of the word.
Cutting a searing path through three decades in Rio's ghetto gangland, director Fernando Meirelles' drama follows the life of young Rocket (Alexandre Rodrigues), an aspiring photographer who dreams of breaking free from the slum's vortex of crime and violence. But on the other side of the 'hood is kill-crazy nutboy Li'l Ze (Leandro Firmino da Hora), well on his way to achieving his own childhood goal of becoming the most feared drug-dealing overlord in the favela.
As the two boys grow up, Meirelles hops masterfully between multiple characters and storylines, crunching the splinters of author Paolo Lins' labyrinthine true-life novel into a screen drama with dazzling bursts of cinematic invention. But Meirelles' movie is more than just crackerjack style and helter-skelter structure. The pulsing violence, energy and emotion resonate with reality, an astonishing cast of non-professional youngsters coming straight off the Brazilian mean streets and burning their lives onto celluloid for the world to see.
It's been called GoodFellas in Rio de Janeiro. Close, but even Scorsese never got this down'n'dirty.