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Lower City (Cidade Baixada) (R)

Release Date: June 16th, 2006 (Landmark Sunshine Cinemas) by Palm Pictures.
The Cast: Lázaro Ramos, Wagner Moura, Alice Braga, Maria Menezes, Joăo Miguel Leonelli, Débora Santiago, Hugo Rodas.
Directed by Sérgio Machado.
In Portugese with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: Deco (Ramos) and Naldinho (Moura), two petty criminals, end up in a love triangle with a prostitute, Karinna (Braga).

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Lower City takes place in the slums of Salvador de Bahia, Brazil, where people turn to a life of sex, violence and drugs. Interracial friends, Deco and Naldinho, lead an aimless life of petty crime and their lifestyle barely changes when they meet a beautiful hooker named Karinna. There’s plenty of sexual tension between Karinna and the two men, but noromantic chemistry. Not surprisingly, Deco gets jealous when she gives physical attention to Naldinho. Co-screenwriters Sérgio Machado and Ainouz breathe very little life into these unlikable, selfish characters that meander from place to place. Likewise, much of the plot also meanders without any real character or plot development. There’s no sense of adventure, or drama, or even any romance. The only real, refreshing surprise occurs, belatedly, at the end of the second act. Raunchy sex scenes with plenty of nudity don’t help to add much to the film in terms of entertainment—although they are well shot. The grungy settings capture the overall dark atmosphere while the superb cinematography adds some realism and style—especially in the very interesting final shot of the film. If only the characters were as interesting. Unfortunately, by the time the love triangle gets violent, it’s difficult to care which of the two men Karinna will choose.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Unfortunately, none.

INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: An aimless plot with no character development.


IN A NUTSHELL: Exceptional cinematography, but deficient in terms of plot and character development with no romantic or dramatic tension.


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