Paulo Morelli’s City of Men revisits the Rio de Janeiro favelas of Fernando Meirellas’ City of God, and like that supremely over-heralded 2002 film, it utilizes its slum locale not for inquisitive sociological inquiry but blah melodrama and stereotypical gangster histrionics. Morelli ostensibly wants to place greater emphasis on his characters than Meirellas did, meaning that he borrows his predecessor’s luridly flamboyant cinematographic signatures but shows slightly more restraint in employing them. Still, that hardly changes the fact that his tale’s interest in the tangled web of relationships and emotions surrounding two fatherless 18-year-old men is less than its infatuation with a guns-a-blazin’ gang war between rival crews of murderous thugs. No doubt things are awful in the favelas, yet Morelli’s tale of fathers, brothers and sons is a jumble of corny plot incidents – none more so than Ace (Douglas Silva) accidentally forgetting his toddler son at the beach – and flashy firefights, all of which are amplified by the director’s cheap, garish mise-en-scéne. City of Men presumes to be about young men’s struggles to survive – and escape – a home where forces out of their control exert continuing negative influence. However, between Morelli’s contrived plotting and empty aesthetics, all the film really proves is that God’s cruddy, exploit-rather-than-enlighten legacy continues.