Nearly everyone needs a paternal figure who’ll foster you until you an age of self-reliance, but it’s also a luxury one takes for granted. In City of Men, the teenagers that slog through the filthy insular shantytown of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, aren’t the kind with parental safety nets. Without guidance, most adolescents are suddenly thrust into adulthood – and quick.

That’s the dilemma plaguing BFF’s Wallace (Darlan Cunha) and Ace (Douglas Silva). On the cusp of his 18th birthday, the former starts searching for his biological father, while the latter’s had his carefree, sexualized adolescence abruptly cut short to rear his kid Clayton with teenage wife Cris (Camila Monteiro).

Meanwhile, the local gangster slumlord Midnight is the de facto law enforcer in Rio, policing from Dead Man’s Hill, a precipice overlooking the town. His right-hand lieutenant, Fasto, plans to stage a mutiny.

But, after Ace witnesses Fasto releasing Fiel – a lowly thug condemned to die in return for his help deposing Midnight – the hapless teen duo are suddenly caught amid the crossfire of two rival gangs.

Cunha and Silva expertly reprise their roles from Men‘s 2002 predecessor, City of God, infusing sharp acting chops in this do-or-die shootfest. Which isn’t surprising, since they’re real-life Brazillian shanty children who’ve encountered this type of parentless, favela gangster warfare in their hometowns.

City of Men is a well-executed, riveting drama nimbly directed by Paulo Morelli with a pinch of MTV-esque kinetic flair: bleach-saturated film stock in flashbacks, the pitter-patter of distant drums and gunfire, and hyper-cagey handheld camerawork.

City of Men screens all week at Sunrise Gateway (1820 E. Sunrise Blvd., Fort Lauderdale). Tickets cost $6 to $8.50. Call (954) 763-7994, or visit