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Stars: Rickson Tevez, Eduardo Luis, Gabriel Weinstein, Martin Sheen, Rooney Mara, Selton Mello, Nelson Xavier, André Ramiro

Director: Stephen Daldry

There are echoes of such far-apart films as Hue and Cry, The Goonies and even Slumdog Millionaire in Daldry's film about two Rio street kids whose self-appointed daily task of picking through the garbage in one of Brazil's massive rubbish tips leads to a discovery that will change (and, indeed, endanger) their lives.

The found object is a wallet containing a fair amount of money and, though the two 14-year-old boys, Raphael (Tevez) and Gardo (Luis) don't know it, some white-hot (coded) information that could bring down the corrupt politico whose evil influence overshadows half the city.

Suspected by a ruthless cop (Mello) in the politico's pay, the boys are soon on the run through the Rio slums; one is captured and tortured but survives, and the pursuit continues as the boys try to work out the secrets of the wallet before it's too late.

There's some help from their friend Rat (Weinstein) and his knowledge of the city's sewer system, and from an American whiskey priest (Sheen) and his female assistant (Mara).

Sunburnt camerawork captures the dangers of the city's poorer quarters, while the naturalistic performances of the amateur boy actors keep the audience on its toes. And, despite the film's scenes of violence, there's something of a feelgood spirit that permeates proceedings; perhaps the boys never seem in as much danger as they are, but that helps to dispel a grim pall of despair cloaking conditions and coruption that could well have dominated the story.

Dialogue is mainly Portuguese with occasional bits of English, but the plotline is easy enough to follow.

David Quinlan

UK/Brazil/US 2014. UK Distributor: Universal. Colour by deluxe.
114 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 27 Jan 2015