Garishly sensational violence is the only thing that distinguishes kiddie action-adventure Trash from pseudo-uplifting coming-of-age thrillers like Slumdog Millionaire. Set in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, Trash follows fourteen-year-old waif Raphael (Rickson Tevez) and his two teenage friends as they evade corrupt, sadistic cops during a scavenger-hunt-style search for a recently murdered political whistleblower’s secret stash.
This otherwise unremarkably choreographed chase narrative overuses brutal violence in order to establish Rio’s skid row as a dangerous hometown that Raphael and his friends must escape in order to survive. The teens are routinely preyed upon by capricious adults, as we see when crooked cops abduct Raphael and throw him around in the trunk of a cop car until Tevez’s face is slick with blood.
Co-directors Christian Duurvoort and Stephen Daldry encourage viewers to cluck their tongues in disgust at the institutionalized apathy that allows Raphael’s pursuers to torture, bludgeon, and shoot at anyone they can’t otherwise intimidate.
But Duurvoort, Daldry, and screenwriter Richard Curtis also — hypocritically — commend their protagonists for being as violent as their assailants, like when Raphael’s best buddy Gardo (Eduardo Luis) defends himself from an intimidating gangster’s assault by slashing the mobster’s eye with a claw-like penknife. Gardo’s shocking violence isn’t presented as a grim turning point, but rather a gross illustration of a street-smart boy’s survival instincts. As a result, Trash‘s creators never say anything thoughtful or useful about the extreme violence they liberally — and irresponsibly — use to characterize third-world adolescence.
Directed by Christian Duurvoort and Stephen Daldry
Opens October 9, AMC Loews Kips Bay
Available on demand