Lower City

A woman comes between boyhood friends in Brazilian director Sergio Machado's gritty story of lives on the fringes. Deco (Lazaro Ramos "Madame Sata") and Naldinho (Wagner Moura) grew up together in Salvador, engaging in petty theft and growing so close they call each other "brother"; they now co-own a small cargo boat that they use to ferry goods up and down...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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A woman comes between boyhood friends in Brazilian director Sergio Machado's gritty story of lives on the fringes. Deco (Lazaro Ramos "Madame Sata") and Naldinho (Wagner Moura) grew up together in Salvador, engaging in petty theft and growing so close they call each other "brother"; they now co-own a small cargo boat that they use to ferry goods up and down the northeastern coast of Brazil. While making a routine run, they pick up part-time prostitute Karinna (Alice Braga, the niece of actress Sonia Braga), who strikes a deal for passage to Salvador that includes servicing both men. They debark at Cachoeira, a rough coastal town, and Karinna decides to continue her trip with a trucker. But Naldinho is stabbed in a fight, and she returns to the boat with Deco, helping to look after the injured man until they can get him to a doctor. Once in Salvador, she leaves and takes a job at a strip club. The cargo business is slow, but Deco refuses to steal, even though an old associate, Dois Mundos (Dois Mundos), offers him work. Deco instead goes back to boxing, working as a sparring partner and gradually picking up fights. Karinna gets them a temporary gig with her boss, who pimps out her club dancers to sailors who can't leave their docked freighters; Deco and Naldinho are responsible for running the girls out to the ships and keeping an eye on things. Naldinho later takes the job Deco turned down and starts holding up drugstores for Dois Mundos. Each continues to see Karinna, who can't choose between them; the awkward three-way relationship drives a wedge between the old friends and sets the stage for a brutal showdown. LOWER CITY reunited Machado, fellow writer-director Karim Ainouz and actor Ramos, who previously collaborated on MADAME SATA (2002), a biography of black Brazilian drag performer Joao Francisco dos Santos that Ainouz directed, Machado cowrote and Ramos starred in. Both films vividly evoke the grinding difficulty of growing older while living from one unpredictable job to another, and the welcome refuge of obliterating sex. But LOWER CITY was also clearly conceived as a sexually frank, movie-buff's homage to JULES AND JIM (1962), and is surprisingly circumspect about the homoerotic undertones of Naldinho and Deco's relationship. The story wears thin long before it's over, but Machado draws strong performances from his leads and makes excellent use of its rundown locations.

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  • Released: 2005
  • Rating: R
  • Review: A woman comes between boyhood friends in Brazilian director Sergio Machado's gritty story of lives on the fringes. Deco (Lazaro Ramos "Madame Sata") and Naldinho (Wagner Moura) grew up together in Salvador, engaging in petty theft and growing so close they… (more)

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