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Elite Squad

  • Film
  • 2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars
Muscling in on the sun-bleached Brazilian favela antics popularised by Fernando Meirelles (‘City of God’) and Walter Salles (‘Central Station’), director José Padilha’s fictional follow-up to his 2002 doc ‘Bus 174’ looks at the dangers of life in the slums of Rio through the eyes of the city’s various law enforcement agencies. At the film’s core is the bullish Nascimento (Wagner Moura), commander of the BOPE tactical unit which is routinely dispatched to the ghetto to stamp out violent crime. Nascimento is on the lookout for recruits pending his coming retirement but is worried that BOPE’s aggressive (borderline sadistic, in fact) methods have corrupted his ability to sustain a loving marriage and raise a child.

And you can see why: civil liberties are suspended, trampled on and then buried as suspects are shot, stabbed and suffocated by members of the unit. In a recurring motif, see-through plastic bags are pulled over a suspect’s head and, to the sound of facial pummelling, seen to fill up with blood. It’s questionable whether Padilha is offering an objective ethical enquiry into the deployment of these ‘techniques’ or merely whooping up their violent ends from behind the camera.

Suffice to say, these scenes may leave more liberal-minded viewers feeling a little queasy. Viewed as a pumped-up action movie, ‘Elite Squad’, which won the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlin, is also sold short by its awkward structure, first swooping into the favela to deal with sundry gunplay, drug crime and police corruption, then tailing off on a ‘Full Metal Jacket’ style training camp where prospective BOPE candidates are put through the gruelling wringer. It is impressively made, but leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.
Written by David Jenkins
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