An epic crime thriller that manages to be a rare
sequel which outshines its original.
If films are to
be believed, and we have no reason to doubt them, Brazil is a country rife with
so much crime and corruption it is amazing the UN have not placed international
sanctions on it. While the drug
dealers seem to rule streets the corrupt cops seem to govern them, while the
politicians are all taking hefty pay-offs to turn a blind-eye and keep their
pockets lined for an early retirement.
Mind you the same could be said about watching any number of American
movies. The difference is that
films like Elite Squad and City Of God bring a level of gritty authenticity
where Hollywood would paint crime in a warm glow.
Elite Squad: The
Enemy Within is no exception in its depiction of crime in Brazil. It is a film with a grand feel, a
sweeping insight into the darkest alleys and corridors of power where
corruption lurks and looks to exploit.
Picking up a few
years after the first Elite Squad, The Enemy Within sees head of The Political
Police (BOPE), a ruthless almost SWAT like efficient specialist unit,
Nascimento (Wagner Moura) having to
return to the fold after his replacement has not lived up to expectations. When a prison riot ends in a massacre
Nascimento is packed upstairs to become a paper pusher. However, in doing so he learns of a
deeper corruption and is forced to deal with his ex-wife’s husband, the liberal
minded Fraga (Irandhir Santos) who
is adamant that Nascimento’s tactics border on Fascist and brutal. But with each cartel and enemy
Nascimento eliminates a new one seems to spring up and eventually he will track
down the puppet masters behind all the corruption.
For those who
have not seen the first Elite Squad fear not, The Enemy Within doesn’t require
previous knowledge of the story or characters. In fact much of it is covered in the opening prologue to the
film. If anything Enemy is a rare,
and we mean like wild Panda rare, example of a sequel that is better than the
original. The first film was a
wonderful blend of City Of God kinetic energy mixed with Full Metal Jacket
grunt politics. This installment
racks everything up to Godfather Part II levels of political intrigue and
personal demons. Nascimento has
reached a road block on his personal war on crime. Just when he thinks he has lopped off one demon’s head it
sprouts another in an ever more vindictive form which continually puts innocent
and impoverished people at risk.
Add to this dealing with his own demons of witnessing his son become
more and more like his liberal step-father alienating him further from
It may all sound
heavy handed but writer director Jose
Padilha juggles it all with ease.
One minute his style is graceful and poignant, drawing powerful
character moments out of the most mundane of activity. In one scene we see Nascimento grow
ever frustrated as his son loses repeated bouts of a Judo contest. The next,
and normally when the bullets start flying, Padilha brings a fluid energy to the
piece, a kind of The Departed (2006)
meets a Guy Ritchie explosion of
slow-mo and adrenaline fueled action.
foremost though The Enemy Within is a crime story with a moral bastion fighting
a corrupt fight. It is lead actor
Wagner Moura who brings a wonderful performance as Nascimento to the
proceedings. With an informal
voice-over, we’re his friends according to it, he is a man firmly on the edge
of Friedrich Nietzsche’s abyss.
Looking into it in such a way that he is at risk of becoming like the
monsters he hunts. But his
deep-set eyes convey something closer to childlike honesty. He is the one man in Brazil who cannot
be bought, will not succumb to the easy route of money. His flat is small and run down, but he
is like Al Pacino in Heat (1995), he lives for the chase,
getting his man and will stop at nothing to achieve it, even if it means
breaking a few rules to get it done.
Elite Squad: The
Enemy Within is a true crime classic.
A film so plunged in the back-streets and dodgy dealings of a corrupt
country it presents a Western style of one man on a mission to clean up this
dawn tooting mess. That man is
Nascimento and us moral citizens worship at his altar.