DIFF Review: Brazilian Western


Director:René Sampaio

Cast:Fabrício Boliveira, Isis Valverde, Felipe Abib, Antonio Calloni, César Troncosco

Running Time:108.00


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, Fabrício 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.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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