Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
San Jose Mercury News:
A grim, outrageous, blisteringly effective underworld thriller destined to become a classic of its kind.
The violence never feels exploitative; the only thrill you feel is that of being in the hands of a masterful storyteller opening your eyes to a world that you feel truly exists.
New York Times:
As the movie's frenetic visual rhythms and mood swings synchronize with the zany, adrenaline-fueled impulsiveness of its lost youth on the rampage, you may find yourself getting lost in this teeming netherworld.
There's something distasteful in the rote way this film introduces us to two dozen hapless, heartless kids and doesn't care enough to make us feel for them.
J. R. Jones,
I came away from this film impressed by its narrative control but unmoved by anything it had to say.
Globe and Mail:
Meirelles opens with a stark image -- close-up of a knife sharpened on a whetting stone -- and, for the rest of the film, pretty much keeps us on that knife's edge.
From beginning to end, City of God doesn't just hold you; it clutches your lapels with its lurid exuberance.
Finally more numbing than emotionally shattering.
New York Observer:
The living conditions it projects are as horrendous as I had feared, but the movie is surprisingly easy to take as a rollicking homicidal entertainment.
Meirelles has crafted a distinctive motion picture -- one takes us into the streets with an unsurpassed intensity and immediacy.
Breathtaking and terrifying, urgently involved with its characters, it announces a new director of great gifts and passions: Fernando Meirelles.
The film is far from a work of art, but it marks the emergence of a great new action superchef.
It should be considered required viewing, I think, by anyone who seeks to understand how violence begets violence.
The performances, many from non-pros, are terrific.
This is one movie in which you don't feel the long-ish running time, in part because there always seems to be a surprise (as well as a new street guerrilla) around every corner.
City of God delivers a bruising, visceral experience of the vicious spiral of violence that draws kids into a life of crime, brutality and murder as the only avenue open to them.
If one of the moral responsibilities of the movies is to put you in places where you'd never go and live lives you'd never live, then City of God is great moviemaking.