Riveting and emotionally true, Last Stop 174 faces box office challenges

Last Stop 174/Ultima Parada 174

on January 21, 2009 by Steve Ramos

The 2000 hijacking of a Rio de Janeiro bus and the live TV broadcast of the crime is a well-known story throughout Brazil and the world thanks to José Padilha's documentary Bus 174 ( Ultima Parada 174 ). Using details about the crime, the colorful backdrop of Rio and the larger-than-life characters involved in the hijacking, veteran filmmaker Bruno Barreto creates the perfect companion movie: the dramatization Last Stop 174. Suspenseful, fast-paced and overflowing with heartfelt drama, Last Stop 174 is social melodrama at its finest. It's also Barreto's best film since 1974's Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.

Empire Film Group, which acquired North American rights to Last Stop 174 after its showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, can expect strong critical praise and enthusiastic word of mouth from fans of Barreto's earlier films when it releases the film in select cities. Specialty audiences who seek out foreign-language, politically minded, social melodramas will also give the film high marks. All of which, including its U.S. release date (slated during the most competitive time for arthouse drama), should help Last Stop 174 sustain a modest theatrical run and generate moderate box office for Empire Film Group. While its commercial potential faces great competition, U.S. DVD sales should benefit from the film's critical acclaim.

With a powerful script, screenwriter Bráulio Mantovini ( City of God ) creates fascinating characters equal to the film's suspenseful action. His triumph is the creation of compelling backstories involving the young adults whose intersecting lives on Rio's streets lead to this crime of the century. Sandro (Michel Gomes in his first major film role), his partner-in-crime Alessandro (Marcello Melo Jr.) and his would-be girlfriend Soninha (Gabriela Luiz) are all riveting. Their performances provide depth and understanding to the story behind the hijacked bus and the people responsible.

Production designer Cláudio Amaral Peixoto brings life to every scene, whether in the slums of Rio or outside its downtown office towers. His attention to detail is impressive. Cameraman Antoine Héberlé beautifully captures the action, whether quiet and intimate or pulse pounding. Editor Letícia Giffoni maintains the storytelling at a quick rhythm. The film never skips a beat.

Barreto, who also produced the film along with a consortium of companies including Myriad Pictures and Moonshot Pictures, can claim eighteen films in his long career. While inviting comparisons to the political dramas of other Latino filmmakers like Fernando Meirelles, Carlos Reygadas and Alejandro González Iñárritu, Last Stop 174 stands tall as a powerful drama displaying Barreto’s distinctive storytelling skills. While Meirelles, Reygadas and Iñárritu push the boundaries of filmmaking with experimentation, Barreto gives his drama a more tragic core by emphasizing his characters and their individual stories.

Barreto has enjoyed commercial success before with Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands. Last Stop 174 falls more into the category of his previous political dramas like the excellent Four Days in September ; a film of artistic storytelling and emotional power that (likely foretelling the fate of Last Stop ) failed to become a theatrical hit.

At its dramatic payoff, when Sandro hijacks the city bus, Barreto uses all his years of experience to fashion together a mesmerizing climax of suspense and human drama. It's an incredible achievement and one that will eventually garner the recognition it deserves.

Distributor: Empire Film Group
Cast: Michel Gomes, Marcello Melo, Jr. and Gabriela Luiz
Director: Bruno Barreto
Screenwriter/Producer: Bráulio Mantovini
Rating: Unrated
Running time: 110 min.
Release Date: Unset

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