Elite Squad: The Enemy Within

Packing an entire season’s worth of The Wire’s dirty cops, self-serving politicians, serpentine plotting, and gruesome, wasteful collateral damage into just under two hours, this sequel to the 2007 Brazilian hit Elite Squad will test the ideological mettle of law-and-order conservatives and lefty peaceniks alike. That’s a virtue, because though Elite Squad 2 (this movie’s handier and more accurate original title) plays footsie with both socialism and fascism, it’s never easy to peg. The film picks up on ultra-jaded Rio de Janeiro supercop Nascimento (Wagner Moura), whose special ops unit BOPE botches a prison riot raid that hands his detractors a reason to kick him upstairs. Along with a cabal of government bureaucrats and a rogue police contingent intent on carving up the favela crime trade for itself, Nascimento’s enemies include Fraga (Irandhir Santos), a human-rights activist who’s shacking up with Nascimento’s ex (Maria Ribeiro) and making an impression on his teenage son (Pedro Van-Held). Fraga uses his own role in the riot to get elected to congress, and the two antagonists work from their polar positions to a corruption-busting collaborative climax that’s as rousing as it is foregone. Screenwriter-director José Padilha favors the bullet-quick intensity and close camerawork of ES1 and his 2002 documentary Bus 174, and his preference for giddily shot bloodbaths that invite both tongue-clucking and anticipatory drooling will understandably irk hair-splitters. The unlikely last-act pact between Nascimento and Fraga—the lion and the lamb between the sheets at last—might be hard to swallow, too, but its conviction makes it tough to dismiss.

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