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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Brazilian Western (Blu-ray)
Brazilian Western (Blu-ray)
Shout Factory // R // November 18, 2014 // Region A
List Price: $24.97 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted November 5, 2014 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

Directed by filmmaker René Sampaio and adapted from a popular song entitled Faroeste Caboclo by Brazilian musician Renato Russo, Brazilian Western isn't really so much a western as it is a modern crime drama. It is at least set in Brazil, however, so the title isn't completely misleading!

The story is set in the 1980s and follows a young man named João de Santo Cristo (Fabrício Boliveira) who leaves his rural home for the capital city of Brasília where he hopes he'll find something more. João also has a past, having done jail time recently for killing the cop that he knows murdered his father. He grew up poor and figures with more opportunity available in the city, maybe he'll be able to turn things around. Soon after his arrival he meets up with his cousin Pablo (César Troncoso) who helps him to land a job working as an apprentice to a busy carpenter. Really though, João is working as a drug dealer, at least once the sun goes down.

When he winds up running from the cops, he meets a beautiful young woman named Maria Lúcia (Isis Valverde) who helps him hide for a bit. They hit it off and it turns out that she's not only an architecture student but also the daughter of a high ranking senator. Not surprisingly, romance quickly encapsulates the pair, much to the dismay of Jeremias (Felipe Abib), a rival drug dealer with ties to Maria who has it in for João.

Although the plot for Brazilian Western doesn't reinvent the wheel, it does put some interesting cultural spins into the mix and winds up to be a consistently entertaining and engaging crime story. By setting the movie in the eighties all of this winds up taking place in a pretty dicey political environment, with Brazil having plenty of issues to deal with on a national level. The police are a nearly constant threat in the film, not just to João (though primarily, given that all of this revolves around him) but to many of the other members of the lower class that he winds up becoming involved with. Of course, by pairing him with Maria Lúcia, the movie deals in the old adage that ‘opposites attract.' Not only does she come from a family that does not want for money or power but she's a fledgling architect and he a fledgling carpenter. There's a metaphor there in that she comes from the stratus of Brazilian society that plans and creates while he comes from the stratus of society that actually does all the labor yet never gets the credit.

We know early on that the movie is going to involve its own share of tragedy and melodrama and that things will certainly not be easy for antagonist. In this regard the movie does tend to become a little bit predictable. So too does it delve into cliché now and again, the obligatory shoot out that occurs towards the movie's climax will come as a surprise to exactly nobody. Having said that, director Sampaio shows very good skill in crafting interesting characters and creating some solid tension. We know that João is deeply flawed, that's never a question, but he's intriguing enough that even if we don't necessarily agree with either his lifestyle choices or how he deals with some of the conflict he finds himself involved in we at least want to see how all of this plays out for the guy. There's plenty of social commentary here as to the merits of moving up in society and the difficulties, often times impossibilities, involved in the poor trying to make a go of it. This makes the movie a bit of a message film but it manages to go there without ever feeling preachy.

Complimenting the intelligent script and solid thematic elements is a slick visual styles and good use of music. There are some impressive camera angles here used not only to show off the contrast in the locations where the story unfolds but also to highlight body language and facial expressions in scenes where pre-fabricated dialogue just can't cut it. The acting is quite solid across the board with both Fabrício Boliveira and Isis Valverde delivering believable and emotionally involving performances that feel about as natural as they come.

The Blu-ray:

Brazilian Western makes its North American Blu-ray debut courtesy of Shout! Factory in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition transfer framed at 2.35.1 widescreen. As this was shot on digital video there are obviously no print damage issues to note, so the image is as clean as you could hope it would be here. Although much of the movie is very dark the more colorful scenes that do occur in the film show good color reproduction, the purple of a sun setting in the background in one scene really stands out, for example. Skin tones look good and there are no issues with any noise reduction or edge enhancement. There is a bit of crush in some of the darker scenes and some really minor artifacts here and there but otherwise the movie looks quite good with detail, texture and depth definitely outdoing what standard definition can provide by quite a margin.


Audio options are provided on the disc is DTS-HD 5.1 and 2.0 Master Audio tracks in the film's native Portuguese language with optional English subtitles provided. The 5.1 track spreads out the score and effects pretty nicely throughout the movie, particularly the more intense scenes. Dialogue typically comes from the front of the mix though there is occasionally some appreciable surround placement here too. Levels are nicely balanced and there are no issues with any hiss or distortion at all. The score has good range and depth and the audio here is of good quality and problem free.


The main extra on the disc is a making of featurette that runs twenty-five minutes. René Sampaio is interviewed here about what he was going for with this picture in adapting a popular song. Also interviewed here is the film's producer and the main cast members. There's also a bunch of behind the scenes footage in here alongside the interview clips to give us a look at what it was like on set. Rounding out the extras are two trailers for the feature, a menu and chapter selection, though this is a combo pack release so it includes a DVD version of the movie inside the Blu-ray case alongside the Blu-ray disc.

Final Thoughts:

Brazilian Western isn't the most original film you're ever going to see but it's cultural characteristics definitely help to make it stand out from the crime drama pack. The movie is really nicely shot and technically pretty impressive while the story is engaging and involving and the performances quite strong. Shout! Factory's Blu-ray isn't stacked with extras but the featurettes is interesting. More importantly, it does look and sound quite good. As such, it comes recommended.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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