Brazilian Western is not a completely self-explanatory title. Though it takes elements of American Westerns, much of Brazilian Western is a revenge film"”and a stylish one at that.
In the tradition of great antiheroes, FabrÃcio Boliveira plays Joao, a black man from the deserted town of Santo Cristo, Brazil. He went to prison as a teen for killing a cop"”for reasons that are later explained"”and now has to try to build some sort of life in Brasilia, the corrupt capital of the country during the tumultuous 1980s.
Much of the film can be hard to watch because it seems like Joao can never catch a break. He has trouble finding work, and ends up selling drugs for his cousin. One night during a deal, he nearly gets caught by some corrupt cops, but hides out in the room of Maria (Isis Valverde). While she could have easily screamed or turned him in, the two eventually begin a passionate affair.
Unfortunately, this catches the attention of the wrong people, particularly Maria's friend and rival dealer Jeremias (Felipe Abib). His extremely jealousy, and the advantage of having police on his payroll, give him the opportunity to torture and imprison Joao.
With vengeance on his mind and a desire to be reunited with his beloved, the movie essentially becomes Joao Unchained. And like all the best revenge films, it causes us to look inside ourselves and wonder why we abhor the violence perpetrated against Joao but cheer when he brutally confronts his attackers.
Brazilian Western occasionally hampers its story by not fleshing out its characters"”though this does keep the film lean"”but it has style to spare. This is René Sampaio's first film, but he shows a keen eye for both intense and tender moments. He brings out the fire in his actors and makes the film feel authentic. It's set in the '80s but never feels like it's playing dress-up.
There's real passion and intensity in this film. It's a strong debut and hopefully a sign of great things to come from director René Sampaio and his talented cast.