Time of Fear (Salve Geral)

By 09 September, 2010

After a brief depiction of youthful urban life in Sao Paulo, the life of Rafa (Lee Thaler) is turned upside down in little more than “15 seconds”. The director, Sergio Rezende, showcases a fictional story about a series of real events that took place in Sao Paulo in 2006, in which a number of organised and brutal attacks took place on police stations, banks and on the streets, while inmates overtook the State Prison.

The film begins with the innocent life of a teenage boy, Rafa, and the undemanding life he lived with his piano teaching mother, Lucia. Rafa’s life takes an unexpected turn when he accidentally kills an innocent girl after seeing his friend shot only seconds before. Before long, Rafa finds himself rubbing shoulders with some of the hardest criminals in Sao Paulo’s maximum security state prison and is soon introduced to prison life under the rule of The Party, an extremist group desperate to take control of prison life and run political affairs from behind bars. Rafa’s mother, a qualified but unpractised lawyer is unwavering in her attempts to get her son out of prison and soon finds relief in her friendship with Ginger, a lawyer working for The Party, unbeknown to her. However, it doesn’t take long before Lucia is running errands for Ginger, delivering messages to key members of The Party behind bars and unknowingly helping to coordinate attacks. The focus of the film then turns to the events of The Party outside of the prison walls in which Sao Paulo is falling into chaos with attacks on the police, public transport and riots.

While the film seemed to promise so much at the start, disjointed screen-play, unconvincing acting and a general lack of fluidity between scenes made me repeatedly question where I was and where I was going. The “choppy” nature of the screenplay inhibited the development of key characters in the film, although Lucia, played by Andrea Beltrao, was a cut above the rest in her delivery and honesty. She was truly the only character that emitted any charisma and actually the only one I cared for. Some of the inmates were unconvincing and lacked the harsh callous attitude needed for the viewer to buy into the fact that they were behind some of the brutal attacks taking place outside the prison walls. Unfortunately, Rafa’s character seemed void of spirit and seemed to blend into life in one of Sao Paulo’s toughest prisons far too comfortably.

All in all, it was not a bad film, just watchable.

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