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.