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Movie review: 'Elite Squad: The Enemy Within'

A tough cop gets a wake-up call.

November 18, 2011|By Robert Abele
  • The BOPE squad assembles for duty in a scene from Jose Padilhas movie "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within."
The BOPE squad assembles for duty in a scene from Jose Padilhas movie "Elite… (Variance Films/Flatiron…)

Like a police force committed to public reinvention after being chastened for its tactics, the Brazilian action sequel "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within" hopes to answer charges that the first "Elite Squad" movie was little more than a fascistic glorification of violent slum cleansing by take-no-prisoners authorities.

This time around, righteous Nascimento (Wagner Moura) encounters a wake-up call regarding the moral costs of his law enforcement philosophy. His controversial success in brutally quashing drug dealers unwittingly opens a window for the dirty cops and politicians who profited from the drug trade to take their place in the slums as direct extortionists.

Complexity isn't this movie's buzzword, though. So fueled by indignation is "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within" — the highest-grossing film in Brazil's history, and its entry in the foreign film Oscar race — that it resembles a flow chart splattered with blood and spittle, more static and smeary in tone than the finger-pointing corrective director-cowriter Jose Padilha intended.

It's hard to reconcile this blunt instrument with Padilha's documentary work, notably his rich, organically tense and emotionally focused documentary "Bus 174." Here, realism is a shaky camera in one of Rio de Janeiro's favelas, and a few harangues about corridors-of-power corruption.

The rest is an adrenaline ride, but one more wearying than eye-opening.


"Elite Squad: The Enemy Within." No MPAA rating. Running time: 2 hours, 2 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.

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