Movie Review: Trash

“You never know what you might find.

The tagline for Trash (adapted from the novel of the same name by Andy Mulligan) summarizes the impressiveness we felt upon the ending credits. Then again, it does makes sense for us to be awed, considering this film bears the Midas touch of Stephen Daldry, director of Oscar gems like The Reader (2008) and Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011).


Just like Jamie Bell who shot to fame after Billy Elliot, Daldry’s protagonists are a trio of rookie actors starring in this suspense-filled adventure of a race against crime and corruption.

Set in Brazil, the film follows 3 dumpsite boys as they find a small leather bag among the heaps of trash they live in, belonging to José Angelo (played by the star of Brazilian Golden Bear-winning action film Elite Squad, Wagner Moura). The bag contains little things and keepsakes deemed worthless that is, until the cops start showing up in pursuit of it.

And before they know it, Raphael (Rickson Tevez), Gardo (Eduardo Luis) and Rat (Gabriel Weinstein) find themselves on the run from the local police, led by the vicious Frederico (Selton Mello).


Cue intense chase scenes across rooftops and down alleyways, not forgetting copious pistol gunfire. Not quite Matrix-esque rooftop runs but more like Taken 2’s rooftop chases, longer and more intense.

The movie’s success in the “chase” aspect is owed greatly to the filming location and the camera style used. Rio de Janeiro, with its favelas (Brazilian term for shanty towns/slums) and cramped alleyways, is the perfect setting. Thankfully, the chase scenes are filmed without relying extensively on wide shots or shaky-cams. Consequently you can almost feel how cramped the favela is.


Punctuating the high-octane nature of Trash are quieter moments that focus on the 3 musketeers. There are interview snippets that fleshed out each character’s back-stories, providing insights into their individual attitudes and lives. In either case, the pacing is just fine, and no part feels overly dragged-out or unnecessary. If there were any gripes, there’s a strange deus ex machina in the boys’ final escape from the swarm of corrupted cops.

The film’s backbone is definitely its consistent and excellent quality of acting. Selton Mello’s portrayal of Frederico as a cunning and vicious corrupt officer is intimidating and ominous with his cool demeanor, while Martin Sheen and Rooney Mara in relatively minor roles here as Father Juilliard and Olivia respectively, shine in them nonetheless. Even Wagner Moura’s José Angelo conveys impressive pathos, despite getting minimal screen time.


The 3 fresh faces – Rickson, Eduardo and Gabriel – do a splendid job lending Raphael, Gardo and Rat believable personalities, in line with what some could imagine 3 dumpsite kids as — ingenious, quick on their feet, and naïve. Their interpretation of making a video and acting in front of the camera is hilariously child-like in its innocence.


With stellar acting and an eye-opening setting that mirrors the harsh reality of corruption and life in the slums, Trash turns out to be better than what it’s worth.

Rating: 4/5


Release Date: January 1

Runtime: 114 minutes

Censorship Rating: PG13

Genre: Adventure, Crime, Drama

Director: Stephen Daldry

Main Cast: Rickson Tevez, Eduardo Luis, Gabriel Weinstein, Martin Sheen, Rooney Mara, Selton Mello, Wagner Moura

Photos courtesy of United International Pictures.