Dir: Beto Brant. Brazil, 2001. 98mins.
Ten years ago, Brazilian cinema was almost dead and buried. But Beto Brant's third full-length feature is further proof that the revival that hit paydirt with Walter Salles' Central Station is far from over. The Trespasser, which screened in Berlin after an outing at Sundance, is a stylish noir set in Brant's hometown of Sao Paulo in the crime-ridden netherworld that connects the corrupt rich with the desperate poor. A soundtrack of pulsing Brazilian rap and hip-hop will help sell the film to young cine-literates; this could also be the first of Brant's films to get an international airing beyond festivals, retrospectives and cine-clubs.
In the first scene - which sets the nervous, edgy tone of the whole film - a handheld camera observes the meeting between a hitman and his clients through the eyes of the former. The clients are two childhood friends, Giba (Alexandre Borges) and Ivan (Marco Ricca), now partners in a successful Sao Paulo building company. Giba, who runs a lapdancing nightclub in his spare time, is more the bon viveur, Ivan an intense workaholic. The man they need to waste is the senior partner, Estevao (George Freire), who is threatening to sink the company by pulling out.
The deed is done as agreed - though with rather more loss of life - and the two attempt to return to normal life. But Anisio (Paulo Miklos), the hitman, turns up at their office one day and begins to inveigle his way into their lives, as well as that of Claudia (Malu Mader), the punkette daughter of their erased colleague. The resulting suspicion and tension split Giba and Ivan apart, and the former becomes increasingly dependent on Anisio to sort out all his problems.
The eruption of a menacing killer from the wrong side of the tracks into a complacent middle-class lifestyle carries strong echoes of Fargo. And although The Trespasser is a looser film, it is suffused with the same sense of foreboding, with Macbeth's sense of a dark deed which cannot be washed away and which reaps a subtle revenge. The two leads are strong and Paulo Miklos - a sort of Brazilian Robert Carlyle - is excellent as the wired-up hitman with upward aspirations and a good line in poetic patter.
Driving Brazilian rap and thrash metal replace the usual salsa cliches, although occasionally the rock video impulse gets in the way of the action, as in a long-drawn out scene in which a sleep-deprived Ivan staggers along the street with a gun. The ending is a little abrupt - perhaps because the audience expects even more of a twist, or at least more knots to be tied in the plot threads. But this is a film with attitude that deserves to break out of the festival ghetto.
Prod co: Drama Filmes
Int'l sales: Grupo Novo De Cinema E TV
Prods: Bianca Villar, Renato Ciasca
Scr: Marcal Aquino, Beto Brant, Renato Ciasca, from the book by Aquino
Cinematography: Toca Seabra
Prod des: Yukio Sato
Ed: Manga Campion
Music: Sabotage, Instituto
Main cast: Marco Ricca, Alexandre Borges, Paulo Miklos, Malu Mader, Mariana Ximenes