A Brazilian bandit farmer sees the light, only to be faced with more violent enemies in “Matraga,” the kind of film where you’d half-expect to see a miniature angel and devil do battle while perched on the protag’s shoulders. But newcomer Vinicius Coimbra’s suave but simplistic adaptation of the 1946 short story by literary giant Joao Guimaraes Rosa is too invested in being a feijoada Western, seasoned with regionalist touches, to really plumb the depths of Matraga’s opposing interior forces. Quadruple wins at the Rio fest should help local odds, while curio factor will inspire some sprocket-opera shootouts.
In an unspecified time, fearless rural troublemaker Augusto Matraga (Joao Miguel, adequate) is taken in by two religious outcasts (Ivan de Almeida, Teca Pereira) after being left for dead by his adversaries. He subsequently becomes a God-fearing citizen, until a powerful landowner (Jose Wilker) crosses his path. Lensing and art direction are especially elegant, though the bronzed, leathery faces and whiskey-colored firelight imbue a nostalgic, yellowed-paper quality that romanticizes the violence, to the detriment of psychological insight. Helmer Roberto Santos’ earlier “Matraga” adaptation played Cannes in 1966.