That violence is endemic and fatally corrupting in contemporary Brazil seems to be the message from City of God and other recent Brazilian films. 'Before you're born, maybe God decides how to fuck your life!' intones the low key anti-hero of this moody existential drama, based on Patrícia Melo's novel O Matador. Not a natural born killer, the quietly spoken Máiquel (Benício) has hit-man status thrust upon him by the complicitous Rio police and an admiring local community, following his gunning down of slimy thief Suel for mocking his 'poofy' dyed-blonde hair. Ouch! Soon Dr Carvalho and his coterie of racist, complacent middle-class merchants are sponsoring his hits, and his hopes of an ordinary life with beautiful Cledir (Abreu) are washed away in a sea of blood. The film's languid moral distance and matter of fact depictions of gunplay have sparked misleading comparisons with Tarantino. Occasionally impressive first-timer Fonseca employs interior monologue and Breno Silveira's impressive visuals to create a convincing dream-like expressionism, describing a world where arbitrary violence and the absence of judicial retribution have stoked a pervasive, godless malaise, wherein all moral, ethical or religious boundaries have dissolved. That Benício makes Máiquel sympathetic at all is a tribute to his discipline, but there are too many other attitudinising aspects, not least in the macho-tainted sex scenes. An uneasy blend of absurdist comedy and fatigued parable, this flawed film is, finally, less edifying than it aspires to be.