The Man of the Year [subtitled]

The Man of the Year

The Man of the Year is a Brazilian movie about a young man in a rundown area of Rio de Janeiro who gets into a garden variety machismo-driven trash talking confrontation with an even younger lowlife in a bar, nervously and awkwardly overreacts by tracking him down and shooting him in cold blood in the street, becomes something of a local hero for doing so (though the kid he killed seemed pretty insignificant to me, people react as if he’d been terrorizing the neighborhood), gradually stumbles into a lifestyle of murderous vigilantism (mostly at the behest of a group of openly racist and fascist local rich men and business owners), and then to being something of an organized crime leader.

My problem with this movie is it seemed to have two very different elements to it, and never (for me) successfully integrated them with each other.

Movie number one is about an “everyman” who mostly unintentionally finds himself drifting deeper and deeper into a violent, criminal lifestyle for which he is clearly unsuited. There are human, funny moments of him interacting with a pig he has adopted as a pet. The women in his life dominate him to a comic degree. It’s not to the extreme where he’s a completely inept and ineffectual Walter Mitty type, but the incongruousness of this character shooting bad guys does have something of a black comedy feeling to it.

Movie number two is more of a conventional crime movie. The character is understandably most awkward and reluctant the first time he shoots someone, but he gets more and more inured to murder with each one he commits. As the movie develops, both he and the viewer see the circle of corruption, the circle of people who will cheer him on and benefit from his violence, get wider and wider. First he thinks his beef is only with the hoodlum he shoots, but then he experiences the neighborhood’s appreciation for his vigilantism, then he finds out the police largely are on his side and will look the other way while he “cleans up the neighborhood,” and then he learns that the “respectable” class of professionals and businessmen will not only tolerate what he’s doing but actively encourage it and compensate him for it. Over time, the wannabe tough guy becomes a full-fledged tough guy, as his experiences in a corrupt and sick world harden him.

Now, in principle there’s no reason a movie can’t combine both of these things. I mean, if anything that’s more realistic anyway–to show that even a killer, even someone getting deeper and deeper into a criminal lifestyle, is a full person, someone who has weaknesses, a kind side to him, doubts and uncertainties, etc. Why should the movie have to be one or the other–an absurdist black comedy or a straight gangster-type film?

But somehow the two elements never came together for me. It was like I was watching a movie about identical twins, not one person with different facets to his character.

Imagine the people who made Eating Raoul and the people who made Goodfellas had instead gotten together and decided to combine their ideas into one film. Sure, there’s a chance you’d get a Fargo-type movie that somehow smoothly combines laughs with some really disturbing and effective scenes of violence. But you also might get an “oil and water” type combination of those elements. The Man of the Year is an example of the latter.

I may be way off on this, as I’m just trying to convey the feel the movie had for me, but I thought it didn’t work as a combination of two genres, nor as a token of either genre taken alone. Not a terrible movie certainly, but it mostly didn’t connect with me.

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