Film: Boca - The Real Godfather
UK Release date: Out now
Director: Flavio Federico
Starring: Daniel de Oliveira, Hermila Guedes, Jefferson Brasil
Running time: 94 mins
Reviewer: Adam Wing
Time for a little history lesson: Boca do Lixo is the popular name given to the Santa Efigênia area between Rua do Triunfo and Rua Vitória, in Luz neighbourhood, downtown Sao Paulo. It’s not the kind of place you would want to raise a family; characterised by seedy nightclubs, drugs, bars and prostitution on every corner. These days - with constant police attention - the crime rate has dropped dramatically, but back in the day Boca do Lixo told a very different story.
Adapted from his autobiography, the film recounts the story of Hiroito (Daniel de Oliveira), the king of Boca do Lixo. At the age of 21 Hiroito was accused of murdering his father, who was violently stabbed over 40 times with a razor. Hiroito was never charged, however two months after his father’s death, he bought two guns and moved to Boca do Lixo, becoming one of the regions most dangerous criminals. Winner of two awards at the Miami Brazilian Film Festival, Boca is available in the UK for the first time this month.
The biggest problem with Boca is that it glosses over the surface of its storyline, failing to provide a proper insight into the man behind the madness. Hiroito spends the majority of the time on screen, and Oliveira’s performance suggests that he’s up to the task, but key sequences are rushed through, and Boca’s impact lessens with every fleeting glance. Hiroito’s story certainly has potential, and the filmmakers are keen to present him in a certain light, but the viewer is given very little insight into how he became the man he was. Key events take place at regular intervals but we’re just expected to go with it, there’s no rhyme or reason, just continuous forward motion.
Take the relationship he forms with Alaide (Hermila Guedes) as an example. In one scene he is encouraging the new girl on the block to work for him, and in the next he is asking for her hand in marriage. She smiles, job done. It’s hard to care about the characters (good performances all of them) without any kind of depth or emotional input. People come and go but none of them stick around long enough to make a lasting impression. Frederico spends too much time focusing on the action, whether it be regular sexual escapades or violent run-ins, and too little time developing the characters at the heart of the tale. It’s not like he doesn’t have time to delve deeper, but when a film comes in at just over ninety minutes, I find it hard to believe that anyone can do the full story justice.
What Boca lacks in depth however it makes up for in delivery. Frederico is an undeniable talent behind the camera and from a filmmaking perspective Boca comes highly recommended - the ‘Best Cinematography’ and ‘Best Music’ accolades are testament to that fact. Drenched in detail, the period setting is pitch perfect, and Frederico’s distinct cinematic flare should serve him well in the future. The story is nothing new - it’s the well-worn tale of a gangster’s rise and fall from power - but fans of the genre will still find plenty to enjoy on a superficial level, Boca comes with the recommended dosage of violence, profanity and sex after all. Strong performances enhance rather than hinder, hampered only by a lack of much needed substance, but we can’t blame the actors for that.
Boca’s strengths are also its undoing, because in getting so much right, the wrongs are all the more apparent. As a throwaway gangster thriller Boca works well, but it should’ve been so much more than that. Solid performances and worthy direction prove fruitful, but when all’s said and done, there’s indisputable evidence of a meatier movie cut down to the bone.