Review: Elite Squad 2 – The Enemy Within


Saying that Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within opened up to huge praise and setting box office records would be understated. In its home country of Brazil, it beat out Avatar as the top ever grossing movie in that country. Critics loved it, the audience loved it, so why not bring it to America?

But is it good? That’s the question at the end of the day. I mean, I guess it can’t be all that bad, right? Read past the break to see if José Padilha and company delivered a movie worth checking out, or if this one’s a stinker. The fate of Robocop hangs in the balance!

Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within
Director: José Padilha
Rating: NR
Release Date: 11/11/2011 (US)

Let’s just get this out of the way first: Elite Squad 2 is not an action movie. Not in any way, shape, or form. Marketing for movies is easily the worst thing about the movies these days. Worse than overpriced tickets and stale popcorn, or that 3D nonsense, false marketing is having a studio blatantly lie to you about the movie they want you to see. Last year, Catfish was billed as a creepy, found footage style horror/thriller. But it wasn’t that at all. It’s a quiet character study of the weird fascinating look at online relationships. And to those of you who I just spoiled Catfish to, I’m very sorry. Long story short, Elite Squad 2 is billed as an action movie when it’s clearly a political drama that happens to have a couple shoot outs in it. 

The story spun in Elite Squad 2 is one of political corruption, human rights, poverty, and excessive use of force by the police. And it all centers on Roberto Nascimento, a Lieutenant Colonel of the BOPE squad, Rio de Janeiro’s elite military police force. After a prison riot goes wrong four years prior, BOPE is caught under fire by human right’s activists saying that people were thoughtlessly murdered. However, the general public of Rio is fed up with crime and violence, and welcome the news of a tough as nails cop not taking anything. In his new position of power, Nascimento utilizes the BOPE force to bring the drug lords of the Rio slums down to their knees. Naturally though, they’re not the real threat. The real criminals of Rio are in the same building as Nascimento, usually just down the hall. As the corrupt politicians and crooked cops keep covering their tracks, Nascimento is right behind them trying to expose the threat they pose.

It’s a great story, but it’s plagued with a secondary plot that, while giving the characters some more depth, could’ve been explored in much more creative ways. There’s the story of Nascimento and his wife’s failed mariage, and how their son thinks that his father is a cold blooded murderer. There’s Matias’ demotion to a desk cop within a corrupt precinct. At the end of the day, they’re almost unnecessary to the main plot of the movie. Like I said before, the secondary stories add some great depth to understanding who these characters are, but it detracts from a fantastically told main story.

Director José Padilha comes from a background in making documentaries. And it shows in the design and production of this movie. It looks like a documentary, albeit with some shots that would be nigh-impossible for documentarians to achieve. I haven’t seen such raw, brutal honesty in movie violence since I saw Saving Private Ryan for the first time. When a gun is fired, it’s serious business, and will likely end someone’s life. There’s something about the naturalistic way the lighting and editing combine that I just can’t get enough of these days. Note to other filmmakers: naturalism in lighting, editing, and camera movement is a good thing. Keep doing it.

Performances are all around good from everybody in the cast. Even Brazilian Brian Blessed does some good stuff here (That’s totally not his name). But being a foreign movie, I shouldn’t be the one to judge the acting since I dont’ understand Portugese. But for all intents and purposes, all of the actors are very solid. Especially Wagner Moura, for his portrail of Nascimento.

There’s a line in the Nine Inch Nails song “Capital G” that goes “Don’t try to tell me that some power can corrupt a person/You haven’t had enough to know what it’s like”. And I think that line sums up Elite Squad 2 pretty well. Billing itself as an action movie, José Padilha and co. bring forth a tale of power and corruption on a huge scale. Sure, it may have some wonkiness in the story department, but overall it’s a very solid movie. And if Mr. Padilha brings this level of intensity and filmmaking to his upcoming remake/reboot/sequel/whatever of Robocop, then color me very excited.