Elite Squad was apparently a massive box office success in its native Brazil, so I was looking forward to some serious gritty South American streetwise cop action, and the film doesn't disappoint. If you like cops with guns, shooting drug dealers with guns in slums, with loads of guns and shooting then this is the film for you. If this is a mainstream film in Brazil then you've got to worry about the state of the nation a little.
The whole thing is based on the antics of the most streetwise, brutal and trigger happy group of cops possibly in the world: the BOPE or Special Police Operations Battalion. Their logo says it all really: an evil skull with two crossed pistols and a dagger sticking through the skull. Easy going community police work this isn't. It's way beyond zero tolerance as BOPE officers have all tolerance trained out of them at boot camp.
Surprisingly, amongst the 25,000 bullets fired at drug dealers and the scenes of drug dealers being tortured in interesting ways, there is an interesting plot. Andre (Andre Ramiro) is a tortured soul who cannot chose between a life as a humanitarian lawyer or as a streetwise cop. The film basically tells the story of how and why he ultimately makes his decision and poses the philosophical question; can anyone who dances in a camp fashion to 'Shiny Happy People' by REM go on to become a successful member of a South American paramilitary police outfit? Forget Schrodinger's Cat, this is philosophy in the fast lane!
The film jumps about a bit, but is generally well structured with some excellent acting performances, especially by the uber-streetwise BOPE captain; Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura). There's a fairly standard BOPE training sequence, once the film gathers momentum, that could have been developed to show how the characters descend into brutality, however it's slightly less well done than G.I. Jane in the end.
If you like lots of shooting and torture in a gritty slum type setting then Elite Squad is going to be a winner, but throw in the bonus of some semi-intelligent thought provoking dilemmas and you've got a decent film on your hands. It's not in the same league as City of God, but it's well worth a couple of hours of anyone's time. It's possibly worth noting that if you are a Brazilian drug dealer then the whole film may prove a tad disturbing and you should possibly watch Tango and Cash instead.
(I've watched this too, after the Doc kindly lent it to me. Generally, I agree with his findings but I would give it a 7/10. I'm not normally that bothered about grit-fests but I really enjoyed this one. I actually cared about the main three characters because they were all trying not to be corrupt, which is tricky when you see the level of corruption in the other police officials. I thought the training camp was really funny, the way the BOPE guys laughed when they'd actually broken someone and got them to quit. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is out on boxing day. It might be worth a look...
If you like this you could also try:
Gomorrah, City of God, Amores Perros.