A poor teen from Sao Paolo gets a chance for a fresh start in this coming-of-age tale, the third feature from Brazil’s Ricardo Elias. Notable for its handsome, chiseled young lead, Sidney Santiago, and energy-infused urban cinematography, “The 12 Labors” will generate more work for thesp and helmer but probably isn’t edgy enough to merit a bigger international splash.
Released from a juvie facilty where he did time for petty thievery, Heracles (Santiago) relies on his cousin Jonas (Flavio Bauraqui) to help him find work. Given a day’s tryout as a motorcycle delivery boy, Heracles must overcome 12 trials in order to win the job. Only a few of those challenges, however, are actual assignments; most arise unexpectedly. When he accidentally misdelivers a package, for instance, Heracles has to find a clever way to get it back without losing his job. Though Elias plainly tries to link Heracles to his mythological namesake, the connection feels oddly tenuous. And the stakes never feel quite high enough, since Heracles manages calmly to think his way out of every pickle.