Focus World
Reviewed by: Harvey Karten for CompuServe ShowBiz. Databased on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade: B
Director:  Stephen Daldry
Written by: Richard Curtis, based on Andy Mulligan’s book
Cast: Rickson Tévis, Eduardo Luís, Gabriel Weinstein, Martin Sheen, Rooney Mara, Wagner Moura, Selton Mello
Screened at: Review 2, NYC, 10/5/15
Opens:  October 9, 2015

Call this a Brazilian “Slumdog Millionaire” with  Marxist undertones, “Trash” is a crowd-pleasing film featuring strong performances from a group of boys under the age of eighteen who do their own stunts.  (Oh, to be young again.)  The slum dwellers do become multi-millionaires if only for a few moments but the way they treat their new-found fortune could raise cheers from the theater audience—at least from those who will vote for Bernie Sanders.  The movie is action-filled with chases you’ll find in any 007 offering, contrasts view in Rio of the beaches with the favelas, and has dialogue in Brazilian-accented Portuguese that at some moments could be set to fado music, although hip-hop is the more likely preference of the youthful principals.

“Trash” is directed by Stephen Daldry, whose more political “The Reader” shows a law student’s post-World War II experience watching a former lover defend herself in a war crimes trial, and “The Hours,” about women who deal with suicides in their lives, “Trash” is based on a book by Andy Mulligan. The story is about three penniless boys with no education and no parents who discover a wallet in the city dump and who despite the chance of getting a handsome reward choose not to turn it in to the police.  Lack of schooling notwithstanding, they realize that the wallet contains more important papers than the enclosed money and their decision to keep the billfold almost cost them their lives.

In an opening scene Jose Angelo (Wagner Moura), a good guy intent on exposing government corruption, is chased by cops who have no problem shooting people in the back.  Just before he is caught, he throws the wallet into a passing garbage truck where Raphael (Rickson Teves), a favela-dweller who ekes out a living with scores of others by dumpster-diving and selling what they can, recovers it.  He and his pals Rat (Gabriel Weinstein) and Gardo (Eduardo Lewis) are pursued by a bad cop (Selton Mello) who works with a corrupt congressman now running for mayor of Rio.

Much of the film involves chases and a few beatings as the boys stay ahead of their pursuers by jumping fences and soaring across buildings, while director Daldry reserves some quiet moments for an American priest (Martin Sheen) and volunteer teacher (Rooney Mara), who like the youngsters are good guys trying to make a dent in the lives of slum dwellers.  (Sheen is fairly adept with his Portuguese lines.) They may have been brought into the film to attract more of an American audience but their roles could be cut without much loss.

“Trash” combines a serious look at the lives of favela people who spend their days not at computers or i-phones but in spreading out over the city’s trash for a few reals to live on. (When numbers involving Brazilian money are forthcoming, remember that the current exchange rate means that you can get almost four Brazilian reals for an American dollar.)

Cinematographer Adriano Goldman joins the fun by photographing both the mean streets and the gorgeous beaches of Rio in a movie that’s not as complex as “Slumdog Millionaire,” one in which the constant action distracts from the social commentary.  It features a virile soundtrack with hip-hop offerings by MC Cidinho, but where are the Sambas?

Rated R.  114 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B-
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B


By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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