Current Cultural Consumption Notes: “The Great Payroll Train Robbery”

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Assalto ao Trem Pagador: We rent a 1962 Brazilian film you could translate as “the great payroll train robbery.”

Assalto ao Trem Pagador é um filme brasileiro de 1962, do gênero policial, dirigido por Roberto Farias. Baseado em um fato real, o assalto ao trem de pagamentos do Banco do Brasil ocorrido em 1960, no Rio de Janeiro. É um dos filmes mais importantes do cinema brasileiro.

This 1962 police procedural, direced by Roberto Farias, is based on a real event, the robbert of the Banco do Brasil payroll train in 1960, in Rio de Janeiro (Guanabara at the time, actually). It is one of the most important works of Brazilian cinema.

AVISO: Este artigo ou seção contém revelações sobre o enredo (spoilers).

This article or section contains spoilers.

It actually does not. This subtle story of a “falling out among thieves” — featuring a cameo by the comic actor O Grande Otelo which reminds me in a certain way of Buster Keaton’s one dramatic turn, in The Awakening (1954), even though Otelo plays to type in this story — has a subtle and devastating plot twist towards the end that would probably require more time and effort to describe than just stting down and watching the film.

Which we recommend that you do. I am not sure that it has English subtitles yet, though. Let me check. Honey, did you return that video yet?

Gangue de bandidos liderada pelo temível Tião Medonho organiza e executa um roubo a um trem (comboio) de pagamentos. Enquanto a polícia chega a suspeitar de uma quadrilha de bandidos internacionais pela ousadia do plano, os assaltantes se misturam à realidade da pobreza e da violência brasileiras.

A gang of bandits led by the fearsome Tião Medonho organizes and executes an armed robbery of a payroll train. While the police suspect a group of international thieves, because of the daring of the plan, the robbers blend into the reality of poverty and violence in Brazil.

This is just an amazingly good movie. Le Salaire de la Peur good.

Gripping. Fast-paced. Moving.

It is not, however, a heist or detective movie at all, really.

The assault itself occupies perhaps five minutes at the outset, under the opening credits. It is essentially a drama about a “falling out among thieves” that is used to illustrate the social fault lines of the time.

I comment to Neuza that it reminds me a great deal of Italian postwar social realism and she points out that a lot of the people who worked on such films were, in fact, imported from Cinecitá. The depiction of the sensationalist press at the time will remind you strongly of the paparazzi of La Dolce Vita.

For some notes on which, including a discussion of the folklore of the “fearsome” — and the Genet-style “criminal saint” –Tião Medonho (both aspects are explored in this treatment fairly even-handedly, I thought), see also

Capsule review by Mrs. NMMist, who is after all the true local expert in this cross-cultural dupla sertaneja:

Parece hoje, esse filme.


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