In the slums of Rio de Janeiro, three street kids (Tevez, Weinstein, Luis) who make a meagre living picking through the city’s trash dumps one day discover a discarded wallet, the contents of which will change their lives dramatically.
A glimpse at the poster for Stephen Daldry’s latest seems a dead giveaway. It depicts a trio of gleeful youngsters, banknotes raining down on them as, in the background, the sun smiles down on the twin peaks of Rio de Janeiro’s Corcovado and Sugarloaf Mountain. The plot — three street kids find a wallet in a garbage dump and adventures swiftly follow — only confirms the impression of a cheery, family-friendly caper featuring lovable urchins and an exotic location.
In fact, Trash is a full-throttle urban thriller that steers well clear of Rio’s beauty spots to delve deeply into the city’s dark sides of crushing poverty, political corruption and police brutality. It’s the last that it confronts most bluntly. When one of the ‘dumpster boys’, whose discovery could spell the downfall of a crooked official, is violently abducted by the police (politicians’ unofficial enforcers), it’s accepted with glum resignation that he’ll never be seen alive again. This is not a cute story of wily scamps running rings around Plod; these are the kind of cops who view street kids as vermin and value their lives accordingly.
In some respects, the film meets expectations more cordially. Martin Sheen, for instance, crops up as the mandatory patriarchal priest whose gruff exterior hides a heart of gold. Beyond that Trash indulges very few clichés and pulls very few punches. It’s also beautifully shot and bursting with energy, much of which emanates from the dynamite performances of Rickson Tevez, Gabriel Weinstein and Eduardo Luis (dumpster boys Raphael, Rato and Gardo), none of whom had any acting experience before they were cast. The other star, of course, is Rio itself, as sexy and alive as ever, but definitely not playing the glamour puss this time.
Another winner from Daldry, this is an unexpectedly gritty crime drama set in the teeming favelas and grimy backstreets of Rio. A cracking script from Richard Curtis, with roughly 80 per cent of the dialogue in street patois, is brilliantly served by the three leads.