The sophomore outing for talented young Brazilian helmer Beto Brant — whose debut film, “Os Matadores” (Belly Up), played at some fests last year — is a terrifically sleek and suspenseful thriller. If anything, it’s almost too short; in cutting to the chase, Brant loses an opportunity for a more nuanced exploration of his characters. Nevertheless, “Friendly Fire” delivers in spades, and will likely perform well in Latino territories as well as feature in Latin American sections of festivals over the next year. Quality tube programmers should take note, and there could also be international video interest.
Essentially, pic is about obsessive revenge. When Miguel, Eloi, Osvaldo and Paolo, four friends who were politically active in the ’70s, meet for their regular fishing trip, Miguel reveals that the cop who arrested and tortured them 25 years earlier is not dead, as they had been informed, but is living in a small country town. Committed to bringing the cop, who was responsible for the death of Miguel’s pregnant girlfriend, to justice, Miguel railroads his reluctant buddies into joining him on an expedition of revenge.
They arrive in the village and, with little difficulty, track down the ex-cop , who now breeds fighting cocks. The friends ambush their quarry on a country road, but, before Miguel kills him, he reveals that one of them had betrayed the other three.
The tensely directed present-day story is intercut with flashbacks to 1973. Lucia, the g.f. of Miguel at the time, reveals that she wants to leave the terrorist organization because she’s pregnant; a planned bank robbery is to be her final job, but the police are waiting and the five are arrested.
Most of the actors here are new to the cinema, the exception being Leonardo Villar, a well-established Brazilian thesp, who plays the former police chief. Both sets of actors, those playing the friends in the ’90s and those in the flashback sequences, give realistic, well-delineated performances.
The widescreen camerawork by Marcelo Durst is fluid, and Mingo Gattozzi’s editing is exceedingly snappy. Brant never relaxes the tension, but might have fleshed out the short pic with more scenes about the way these former terrorists are living today and therefore what they have to lose by taking the law into their own hands.
Pic’s one real flaw is the loud, discordant music score. Otherwise, all technical credits, starting with the well-designed opening titles, are highly professional.