|DVD 400 Contra 1 – Uma História do Crime Organizado
Run time: 98 min
Genres: Action | Crime | Drama
Director: Caco Souza
Writers: Julio Ludemir, Júlio Ludemir
Stars: Daniel de Oliveira, Fabrício Boliveira, Daniela Escobar
The real story behind the creation of the Comando Vermelho (Red Commando), the powerful criminal organization that terrorized Rio de Janeiro for several decades.
|Plot Keywords: criminal organization, police siege, rebellion, evangelical worship, solitary|
Release Date: 6 August 2010 (Brazil)
Budget: BRL 4,800,000 (estimated)
Though based on the real accounts written by one of its original members, criminal William da Silva Lima, "400 Contra 1" is mostly a fictional retelling of the rise of one of the most violent organizations to ever exist in Brazil, the notorious Commando Vermelho (Red Command), with actions, rebellions and robberies since the 1970's and still in existence. The group was one of the few criminal organizations to defy the military regime and be successful with some of their actions, by demanding better conditions in prison, on an island facility where they were divided with other subversive elements, political prisoners. The ones who were out of prison kept robbing banks and sending money from the imprisoned comrades, and even helping to get out of there in spectacular jailbreaks.
The disclaimer at the beginning is upsetting and very mood killer, considering that the Command exists and using the real version of the facts would provide an excellent movie. First-time director Caco Souza manages to reach an average scale, disappointing some viewers or satisfying them but not that much. As an action movie the movie has its thrilling moments (when the Command decides to eliminate a rival faction in the prison after a failed breakout) but others don't convince, despite a TV archive footage tells us that it happened. I'm referring to the sequence that gives title to the book and movie, which is a standout between one criminal against 400 cops outside of a building. The news informs us that a whole battalion was there to arrest (or kill) this one guy, but c'mon, I think the film could alter this reality a bit. Why no one got up there and verify that the guy was alone? By the time the police acts, hours of shooting went by.
What's discussed about "400 Contra 1" is what it tries to do and the perception people get from it. It's not a glorification of crime, though it can be perceived as a praise to what the Command was initially. It's simply the story of a group that started with some idealism, with dangerous criminals protesting against the different status they were brought into when they were put on that island where political prisoners had more benefits than the ordinary bandits, but in the end they've become a more powerful cell, more violent, leaving jail and occupying slums and entering in different business, including drug and human traffic. This latter part isn't shown in the movie, neither the big names that achieved notoriety with their crimes. Here, we follow the book's author William (played by the always reliable Daniel de Oliveira) and it's very easy to feel some empathy for him cause he's made out to be this way, while fighting with the injustices and brutalities of prison life. And he's in such a good light that it's amazing that, even being a leader and someone who knows how to handle everything, but you never see him killing anyone through the whole thing.
Unattentive viewers felt really bothered with the excessive flashbacks between 1971 (and through the whole decade when they were in jail) and 1980 (the bank robbery). The annoying editing makes perfectly clear when the action takes place each segment is presented (painfully didactic and intrusive) but those cuts back and forth should've reduced to the max. If presented chronologically it would be better, with jump cuts to the 1980's action which would keep the movie strong and gripping. The cast is a little doubtful with some good and some bad choices, but in the end it all works out, and the greatest quality of the movie is its soundtrack filled with soul and funk tracks. When I put "funk" I'm meaning the American style, with influenced some Brazilian works, the one with rhythm and not the one we hear with exploitative sexual lyrics. By the way, this might be the first instance of a Brazilian criminal movie made lighter than the likes of "City of God" and "Elite Squad", it doesn't feel Rated R. That might have disappointed some.
Can't dismiss the movie cause I've seen qualities in it, the story was thrilling despite its obstacles and lack of criticism on the faction. But a documentary about it would suit best. 8/10
P.S.: to the user who reviewed about the prisoner's shame of getting his head shaven, wrongly viewed as a choice between death or have his head shaven by the authorities (that's not the real meaning of the scene) is that he's bothered because he lost his sense of identification, becoming instead what the prison bosses tell them he must be. Have in mind, they were granted certain liberties then, as not using uniforms and not have their hair cut.
The movie is about the early creation of the biggest criminal organization in Brazil, the "Comando Vermelho" (Red command). The movie is inspired in the book of William da Silva, played very well by Daniel de Oliveira (Cazuza). It is an outstanding REAL story, very interesting.
Unfortunately the acting, besides Daniel and a couple of other actors, is poor, with some unknown actors that didn't convince as captain Werneck.
There are also other problems such as the confusing editing, coming back an forth between 1980 and 1970 too many times, complicating the understanding of the movie.
Another flaw is the prison. There are three groups in the jail, and each group had too many characters and they all had the same appearance, so that the spectator has difficulties in distinguishing the gangs. And sometimes one gang member murders another and we don't know the reasons nor which gang was fighting other gang.
Some prisoners are killed by the guards while trying to escape, and another, Baiano, for the same reason only has his head shaved, and the movie makes it a huge punishment. (I prefer bald then dead.) This sequence is terrible, as is the one when other gang members with bald heads protest in the refectory.
The budget is not 400 million, it is incorrect in this site.
Concluding: They had the chance of making a great movie, with an amazing story but made only an average film.
It's hard to follow the story and sometimes you're under the impression that there's something wrong, since you can't really connect the different pieces to build something coherent.
It's built on top of a number of stereotypes, it narrates an important period of Brazilian history without the proper attention that it deserves.
I'm amazed to see that such a bad movie might have cost around BRL 478mi, which is as off today around US$ 288mi. Worst than that is the fact that most of it might have come from public funds.
There's a number of interesting Brazilian movies out there that you should be watching before you spend your time with this one.