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Lower City review

Lower City
18certificate 18
Running time: 97 minutes
Starring: Alice Braga, Lazaro Ramos, Wagner Moura
Rating 5 out of 10
The latest Brazilian film to try its luck on the international scene is Lower City, the steamy story of a doomed love triangle in one of the country's shanty towns. The film carries its influences on its sleeve, with everything from the French New Wave to Tarantino to Shakespeare in the mix, and while its lurid nature may well attract cinemagoers, its increasingly unbelievable storyline is likely to leave them less than satisfied.

Things begin impressively enough with a good set-up that introduces two of the trio: Deco and Naldinho are best friends who eke out a living on riverboat. They pick up Karinna on one of their journeys: a spiky but sexy prostitute who plies her trade to pay her way. When the two men get into trouble at a cockfight (it might now be advisable to have an embargo on animal fights in South American films) they become literal blood brothers as one of them is stabbed

Fleeing to the nearest big city, they threesome squat in a decrepit flat until the injury has healed, but both of the boys start to fall for Karinna's charms. This inevitably begins to cause problems, and when she takes a job as a stripper in a local club events gradually come to a head in a violent manner.

There are plenty of well-executed moments in Lower City: a scam pulled off on a cargo ship, a hold-up straight out of Pulp Fiction, and character development which is both believable and well-acted. It's a Brazilian Jules et Jim with an air of constant tragedy hanging over it.

This is however the film's biggest problem: it is ultimately let-down by its own sense of self-importance. What begins as an engaging story takes too many melodramatic turns to be really convincing. It takes the personal and tries to make it epic on a Shakespearean scale, but it's really little more than a soap opera in the way it consistently switches moods.

Producer Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries) has been the mentor of director Sergio Machado for some time and his name on the marquee should generate some interest. But while Lower City is an admirable enough effort it doesn't match Salles' own work: his Behind The Sun from 2001 was far more successful in bringing heightened Latin tempers to the screen.

Paul Hurley

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