City of Men

Having grown up together in the gangland slums of Rio de Janeiro, Ace (Douglas Silva) and Wallace (Darlan Cunha) are friends for life (all of 18 years). But their brotherly bond is tested by a troubling (if dramatically overcooked) old connection between their long-absent dads — and by an erupting gang war. Blown up from the TV series spun off of director Fernando Meirelles’ huge international hit City of God, this sequel of sorts, written by Elena Soarez, was co-produced by Meirelles and directed by Paulo Morelli, who makes a softer impression. Yes, the city’s blighted, sun-scorched favelas feel lived in enough to arouse poignant pity for those doomed youngsters who can’t get out. And the handsome, charismatic Silva and Cunha shine — sometimes literally, their dark, sweat-streaked skin agleam in attentive close-ups. But Morelli’s tendency to avert from the messiness of aggressive sex and violence seems increasingly disingenuous; the movie veers almost against its will into just another soapy Hollywood-style allegory on the generational legacy of violence.