The lavishly produced and stylish crime thriller Boca (2012) – directed by Brazilian filmmaker Flavio Frederico and based on the autobiography of Hiroito, ‘The King of Boca do Lixo’ – makes for enjoyable viewing. Set amidst the brothels and nightclubs of 1950s São Paulo, Hiroito (Daniel de Oliveira) rises to become one the region’s most notorious crime lords, trading in women, drugs and guns. After the death of his father – a crime Hiroito was arrested for but never charged – the self-styled kingpin begins to establish his empire, but soon comes unstuck to drugs and women.
There is a clearly a strong level of brutal honesty by the real Hiroito in what he reveals in his autobiography, and consequently Frederico’s film. Boca follows the traditional pattern of crime films, in that those who do wrong must have their comeuppance – shown most expertly in Coppola’s Godfather Trilogy. This generic formula is handled well throughout, with the opening scenes showing the lead character at the time of his fall from power.
Boca also possesses a wonderful gritty feel at times, balanced with as overall polished look reminiscent of Scorsese’s Goodfellas (1990), or more recently AMC’s Mad Men. The film is visually captivating, and along with the excellent score succeeds in capturing the time and fell of 1950’s Brazil.
Sadly, Boca is at times too straight a biography. The scenes of violence, sex and drug abuse seem to be on a continual loop absent of any purposeful development. There are no greater narratives at play unlike the aforementioned crime classics, which capture something of the wider context in which they are set. Daniel de Oliveira’s ruthlessly savage performance as the highly unstable Hiroito is impressive, yet sadly let down by the weak narrative that lacks proper development.
The central issue is that the story is not a confession of a misspent life, but an ego-tripping exercise of a man that was nothing more than a drug-addled street thug. As it fails to capture the moral aspect of Hiroito’s story, Boca can be nothing more than a generally entertaining and well-filmed biopic.