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The Cinematic Katzenjammer: April 16: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within


April 16: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

"After a prison riot, former-Captain Nascimento, now a high ranking security officer in Rio de Janeiro, is swept into a bloody political dispute that involves government officials and paramilitary groups."

   With a title like Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, one would think the film's an over-the-top action movie starring Steven Seagal or Jeanne-Claude Van Damme. It's far from that and it's actually an incredible drama about the violence and corruption in the slums of Rio de Janerio. Not to mention it's the sequel of the terrific 2007 film, Elite Squad, and also the highest grossing movie in the history of Brazil. Directed by José Padilha, who's signed on to direct the Robocop remake, ESTEW delves into the dark underbelly of one of the world's greatest cities. Showing, in detail, how evil mankind can be when presented with money and the ability to get away with murder. It's a haunting, realistic, look inside corruption and how it tears apart families, cities, and even the government. 

While Jesus looks down on it all.

   The plot is somewhat complicated if you haven't seen the first film. Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura) is the head of an elite SWAT-like force called BOPE, whose main mission is to rid the streets of Rio of drug dealers, murderers, and crime. Nascimento hand picks each of BOPE's members and is sure that none of the squad members are being paid off by the criminals they're trying to "erase" from the slums. When a prison raid leaves gang leaders dead, Nascimento is promoted to work in the security offices at the government's headquarters. He comes up with a plan to help rid the city of dirty cops, by eliminating the drug trade, thus cutting off the money the dealers would provide to the cops to look the other way. However, with no drug money, the cops turn to other means for money and Rio finds itself with a mafia of dirty policemen and corrupt politicians.

Like The Sopranos, but throw in even more violence and a pair of maracas. 

   The best part of Elite Squad: TEW is how unflinching it is. The film never holds back from showing you how far people can go to keep their dirty little secrets under wraps. A large part of the film, and its characters, is based on real life figures, and much of what's presented in the movie actually happens every day in Brazil. With the film disregarding any restraint, it gives a realistic look at what's happening in one of the biggest countries in the world. No one is safe from the clutches of death, and dirty cops and criminals are terrorists stealing whatever and murdering whoever they please. Nascimento is one of the few people who actually stands up and tries to fight the corruption, but there is no remedy he can implement over night. Change takes time and, when you're fighting a beast the size of a national government, there's not a lot one man can do. The struggle is evident throughout the entire film, and you can't help but be disgusted and frustrated at how far gone it all really is. 

It's not all Carnival and string bikinis. 

   Overall, I would highly recommend Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, but not without watching the first film beforehand. The sequel ends with a buildup to a possible third movie and, with the trilogy's conclusion, one can argue it would rank among the greatest movie series of all time. It's already a massive hit in Brazil, not only for entertainment reasons but because it's truly a well-researched, terrifying look into what's really going on. The acting is phenomenal, and Moura has the intensity of Michael Shannon and the likability of Mark Ruffalo. He's clearly a star and I can't wait to see if he makes his mark in American films like he has in Brazil. José Padilha is a visceral, incredible director and his refusal to hold back on anything makes the film even more powerful. 

The Good:
Wagner Moura's performance and the intensity he brings to the screen
The Better:
an unflinching portrait of the world of corruption and crime that spills the streets of Rio with innocent blood
The Best:
not since City of God has a film successfully shown the true-life brutality of what's going on in a modern society

Overall: 9.7/10


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