MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET) *** Documentary feature about Brazilian corruption and violence; in Portuguese, with English subtitles; not rated, probable R (violence, gore, profanity, nudity, brief drugs).
Most of the dialogue in "Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)" is in Portuguese. Filmmaker Jason Kohn uses both English subtitles and English-language translators to make the dialogue comprehensible.
It's an unusual choice, and it's not the only risk Kohn takes in this convoluted but fascinating documentary and most of those choices pay off.
For example, somehow he manages to weave together stories about a frog farmer, a rightfully paranoid businessman, a kidnapping victim, police officials, a prosecutor and a plastic surgeon. And as disparate as those devices sound, it all makes sense in the end.
Ostensibly, "Manda Bala" examines the rise in violence and corruption in Brazil. Continuing class warfare has led to the kidnappings of the wealthy and privileged in Sao Paulo, leading to a unique growth industry for bulletproof vehicles, bodyguards who train businessmen to protect themselves, and a local police force that's devoted to stopping the kidnappings.
"Manda Bala" is not always an easy film to watch. This documentary uses some kidnapping footage that was sent to families of the victims, including at least one horrifying act of mutilation. And there is also a stomach-churning scene of frog slaughter.
But it's surprisingly effective. Kohn worked as a research assistant to Oscar-winning documentarian Errol Morris ("The Fog of War"), and his influence is clearly felt here."Manda Bala (Send a Bullet)" is not rated but would probably receive an R for strong, sometimes disturbing violent imagery (mutilations, shootings, vehicular mayhem and animal slaughter), some graphic gore and blood (surgical procedures), some strong sexual profanity profanity, full female nudity and brief drug content (references, as well as use of hypodermic needles). Running time: 85 minutes.