The boy from Ipanema
Wouldn’t it be great to hang in fabulous Rio de Janeiro for a few days? You could troll Copacabana Beach, bang the girl from Ipanema, and fulfil every form of sexual debauchery during Carnival.But if you head to Rio, please avoid the overpopulated shantytowns that surround this world famous city. You won’t like what you see.In the terribly overrated "Gangs of New York," director Martin Scorsese showed us the tenacity of American hoods in the early 19th Century. Trust me, the potato eaters who once controlled the Big Apple wouldn’t last three seconds south of the Equator.Think things were bad in Hell’s Kitchen when it stunk of boiled cabbage?Think again, because the baddest hoods on earth thrive inside a violent and vengeful community called the "City of God."This dangerous ground outside Rio is in perpetual turmoil. It’s a swath of trash-ridden turf lorded over by gangs of dead-eyed children, who’d kill you for the shoes on your feet. The Crips, Bloods and Hell’s Angels would run like Frenchmen from a water fight when put against these devils with dirty faces.The travel magazines fill endless pages with tales of hot-blooded Brazilian women, but they leave out the cold-hearted nature of the angry masses that populate the nation’s slums.The flip side to picturesque Sugar Loaf Mountain is displayed graphically in "City of God," the true-life story of a young photographer, who grew up the hood and documented the crimes no one dared to investigate.This is a very tough film to watch. It is extremely violent. The bloodletting is painful to see and plentiful. The violence is not presented in the cartoon fashion of "Scarface." No, this is hard ball and very realistic.The hoodlum life is short, brutish and nasty. Power changes hands every day, depending on who is packing more heat.The worst of the lot is a man-child named Lil’ Dice. Though only 10 or so when he joined the gangs, Dice made his bones by slaying a dozen innocent victims in a brothel hold up. He seized control of the streets by age 12.Michael Corleone was never this angry, even after Fredo ate cheese for that rat bastard Hyman Roth.The kids who live within the "City of God" have few options. They can escape the city if they are lucky, live like servants to the hoods, or join the gangs.The career path of a Brazilian street gangster is often shorter than that of a NFL runningback. Most kids take to the gang life by running errands for the boss. They move up the line by dealing drugs for the gang. If they have stones of steel, they become soldiers.The gang career path usually ends in a pool of blood by the time street child is 18. "I smoke, snort, rob and kill," one 13-year-old wannabe thug boasts to a pal. "I’m a man.""City of God is more about the heart of darkness than living la vida local. Still, it’s a must see for those who enjoy things raw.Until next time, Mr. Hernandez has left the theater to troll for thongs.Nickey Hernandez is a former private investigator who won’t visit the slums of Denver, let alone Rio.