With his first fiction feature, Sergio Machado makes a thorough study of the Brazilian ghetto, from a bloody cockfight to strip clubs, whorehouses, low-rent boxing gyms, back-alley sex, and late-night holdups. In what has become the template for exportable Brazilian films, Machado's imagery is saturated with the high-contrast colors of rotten fruit, and the grungy lowlife is never less than convincing. Such conscientious misery might sustain us for a few minutes, but Lower City is a bone-tired tale underneath: Two lifelong compadres both become infatuated with a hooker and eventually square off against each other. The tiny arc of Machado's screenplay is as old as the Hollywood Hills: The loss of mano a mano camaraderie is a tragedy no woman is worth. Indeed, the boys are full of physical love for each other, plummeting the movie right into the gay-subtext rabbit hole (where the woman is an evil seductress painfully deterring the queer heroes from their true nature) that fully realized characters and a ceiling on clichés might've saved us from.
Sergio MachadoAlice Braga, Harildo Deda, José Dumont, Ricardo Luedy, Olga Machado, Maria Menezes, João Miguel, Wagner Moura, Lázaro Ramos, Débora SantiagoKarim Ainouz, Sérgio MachadoWalter SallesPalm Pictures