Man of the Year
(O Homem do Ano)

Man of the Year (O Homem do Ano)
Made in: Brazil
Language: Portuguese
Director: José Henrique Fonseca
Starring: Murilo Benício, Natália Lage, Cláudia Abreu, Jorge Dória, Perfeito Fortuna, Wagner Moura
Year: 2003

Synopsis: Máiquel (Murilo Benício) is an ordinary, unemployed guy getting by day to day in a poor, nearly lawless district of Rio De Janeiro. He has dyed his hair blonde as a result of losing a bet involving the outcome of a soccer match.

This endears him to the friendly hairdresser, Cledir (Cláudia Abreu). To Máiquel's surprise, he actually welcomes his new hairdo. Since it has altered his appearance dramatically, he gains a new sense of adventure and resolves to make life more spontaneous and adventuresome.

He immediately begins courting the lovely Cledir, but things take a sudden turn when Máiquel gets into a petty argument with Suel (Wagner Moura), a local thug. In a sudden burst of rage one night, Máiquel ends up killing Suel.

But instead of getting arrested, as he initially fears, Máiquel is shocked to learn that he's become a neighborhood celebrity. Suel was a feared troublemaker and his death is a relief to everyone, including local police.

Máiquel goes from being a nobody to the guy everyone wants to be friends with, and he is seen as a local hero wherever he goes. But things start to get interesting when Suel's sexy girlfriend, Erica (Nátalia Lage), insists on moving in with Máiquel.

And while visiting Dr. Carvalho (Jorge Dória), the local dentist, to get some cavities filled, Máiquel is called upon to do a "favor." Dr. Carvalho wants Máiquel to hunt down the man who raped his daughter, and is willing to pay handsomely for the deed.

Before long, the well-meaning (and cash-strapped) Máiquel reluctantly becomes a hitman and is dragged into an underworld full of sex, drugs, violence, and just about every other seedy element that you've heard of coming from Rio De Janeiro.

The Good: Man of the Year is well directed, acted, and filmed. Seeming to have drawn inspiration from Quentin Tarantino, director José Henrique Fonseca gives the story a slightly stylized, 1970s retro look that creates a strong atmosphere.

Murilo Benício is a solid screen presence and actor, and his striking resemblance to Colin Farrell certainly doesn't count against him.

The story follows a familiar "rise-and-fall" trajectory, the likes we've seen in movies such as Goodfellas and Blow. But Man of the Year handles the main points of the genre very well, and even if we can predict what happens, it's interesting to find out exactly how it all unfolds.

The film pretty much stays focused on Murilo Benício's character, and we root for him despite his flaws.

The Bad: However, the film seems to go on a little longer than it needs to. A lot of side elements make their way into the story, and although they are all interesting, few of them are fleshed out to a satisfying degree.

The biggest flaw, however, is in Máiquel's character. As much as we sympathize with him, he's a protagonist who's introduced without a specific strength or skill.

Also, the psychological impact of Máiquel's gradual descent to the "dark side" of life doesn't seem powerful enough. He somehow manages to do some seriously awful things without turning into a complete wreck.

Who would like this film: Man of the Year is for you if you're into crime/thriller dramas. Although it isn't the most powerful film out there detailing life on the streets of Rio De Janeiro, it moves at a good pace and will keep you watching.

The actors are solid and the characters are interesting, but the film goes on a little too long and comes close to being pretentious at times, but at least all the plot elements are there to serve a purpose.

The hubris of Murilo Benício's character never quite reaches maximum tragedy, which is pretty implausible given what he goes through, it at least saves the viewer from feeling completely depressed by the time it's over.

(3 stars out of 4)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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