Every once and a while an action film comes down the pike with such energy and momentum that you instantly want to shout out accolades. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is such a film. This Brazilian film, known internationally as Elite Squad 2, stands alone in its depiction of political and police corruption. The question isn’t whether it’s great but rather how much grit, drama and violence a person can stand. The answer: as much as Elite Squad wants to dole out.
I didn’t see the first Elite Squad but it was not necessary for a total understanding of the sequel. The action moves at lightning speed as we open in the midst of a prison riot. Several character that come into play throughout the film are introduced including a human rights activist (Irandhir Santos) and an officer in the film’s titular elite squad of paramilitary forces (Wagner Moura). The riot ends in a bloodbath and Santos finds himself appointed to clean up the corruption, only the higher he goes the greater the perversion of integrity increases. Santos is also the stepfather of Moura’s son, and this causes no end to the enmity of the two men. Devious officials include the governor, a popular television host and more than one police executive.
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within doesn’t let up until its big bang ending. Stylistically the film reminds of high octane Michael Mann films and while I wouldn’t say it’s as good as City of God, it’s in the same ballpark. Elite Squad also has the distinction of being Brazil’s entry for best foreign film and it certainly deserves to make the cut. Elite Squad: The Enemy Within opens at the Alamo Drafthouse West Oaks this Friday.
— Michael Bergeron