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Review: 'Rio 2096' tells a mythic tale of subjugation, survival

The animated 'Rio 2096' at times looks like a video game, but it has a potent visual intelligence.

By Robert Abele

5:30 PM EST, November 21, 2013

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Brazil's history of subjugated peoples, environmentally dubious sprawl and violent resistance gets a mythic, politically forthright treatment in the animated feature "Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury." Writer-director Luiz Bolognesi's fast-moving tale is structured around the eternal love between a 17th century Indian warrior (Selton Mello) who transforms into a bird at the moment of death and the beautiful woman (Camila Pitanga) he is fated to meet, fall in love with, and fight alongside over the course of four turbulent epochs in Brazil.

Beginning with the bloody Portuguese colonization of the Amazon Indians, the film time-hops to the fraught slave rebellion of the 19th century. That's followed by military dictatorship in the student-protest 1960s and finally a grimly imagined future Rio of private militias, drinking-water politics and a cruel vertical society of elites living in high-tech towers while forgotten masses rot on a polluted Earth. 

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"Rio 2096" probably would be stronger if it weren't so bipolar — our reincarnated hero's melancholic words of struggle feel like sobering political documentary narration, but the frequent scenes of war and splattery violence are right out of a video game. (There's plenty of R-worthy cartoon sex too.) Animation-wise, however, the mix of computer-generated imagery, hand-drawn simplicity in the humans and depth-conscious, textured backgrounds makes for a potent visual intelligence.

"Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury." No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes. At Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena. 

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