Three years after scoring a home-field B.O. hit with "Two Sons of Francisco," Brazilian helmer Breno Silveira attempts a re-do of "Romeo and Juliet" by way of "City of Men" in his sophomore effort, "Once Upon a Time in Rio." A predictable but involving romantic melodrama shot through with scenes of gritty verisimilitude, the pic features engaging performances by two well-cast young leads and impressive technical polish. That should be enough to ensure global fest berths and maybe limited offshore arthouse exposure.

Three years after scoring a home-field B.O. hit with “Two Sons of Francisco,” Brazilian helmer Breno Silveira attempts a re-do of “Romeo and Juliet” by way of “City of Men” in his sophomore effort, “Once Upon a Time in Rio.” A predictable but involving romantic melodrama shot through with scenes of gritty verisimilitude, the pic features engaging performances by two well-cast young leads and impressive technical polish. That should be enough to ensure global fest berths and maybe limited offshore arthouse exposure.

De (Thiago Martins), a sensitive hunk from a Rio slum, sells hot dogs in a kiosk on the Ipanema beach, placing him in convenient proximity to the luxurious apartment complex where beautiful young Nina (Vitoria Frate) resides with her status-conscious father (Paulo Cesar Grande). Dad objects to his daughter’s involvement with a guy on the other side of the socioeconomic divide. But there’s an even bigger threat to the couple’s happiness: Carlao (Rocco Pitanga), De’s adopted brother, newly released from prison and determined to become the reigning crime lord in their old neighborhood. Pic covers familiar ground, but in a believably rendered and vividly detailed setting.

Once Upon A Time In Rio

Brazil

Production

A Conspiracao Filmes production in association with Globo Filmes, Lereby and Sony Pictures. Produced by Breno Silveira, Pedro Buarque de Hollanda. Executive producers, Eliana Soarez, Leonardo Monteiro de Barros, Luiz Noronha, Pedro Guimaraes. Co-producers, Daniel Filho, Luciano Huck. Directed by Breno Silveira. Screenplay, Patricia Andrade.

Crew

Camera (color), Dudu Miranda, Paulo Souza; editor, Eduardo Harung; music, Berna Ceppas; production designer, Rafael Ronconi; costume designer, Claudia Kopke; sound (Dolby Digital), Renato Calaca, Valeria Ferro; casting, Cica Castelo. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 9, 2008. Original title: Era Uma Vez. Portuguese dialogue. Running time: 117 MIN.

With

Thiago Martins, Vitoria Frate, Rocco Pitanga, Cyria Coentro, Paulo Cesar Grande, Luana Schneider.
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