Tropa de Elite 2: O Inimigo Agora É Outro [Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within] (2010)

(On Cable TV, December 2013) It takes a long while for Elite Squad 2 to get going, but when it does it almost entirely upends the certitudes of its predecessor.  2007’s Elite Squad was a Brazilian action film that took a hard look at the war between favelas drug dealers and the quasi-military police forces fighting them.  After seeing the first film’s brutal display of violence and retribution, anyone could have been forgiven for coming to the conclusion that extreme violence is the appropriate response to impose law and order in violent slums, no matter the price paid in dehumanization.  But writer/director José Padilha is willing to push his vision further.  As Elite Squad 2 begins, our returning narrator, once again played by Wagner Moura, is clearly against those “left-leaning intellectuals and potheads” that are threatening his work in cleaning up the slums.  But the film progressively shifts as the drug dealers are replaced by corrupt policemen working alongside equally-corrupt politicians.  Soon enough, the protagonist finds himself fighting “The System” of protective rackets and excess taxation imposed by the very same people who once got rid of the street dealers.  By the end of the film, he’s forced to make allies with the same left-wing intellectuals he once despised, in an attempt, perhaps ineffective, to fight against his new enemies.  While Elite Squad 2 may be a bit too light on the action and a bit too heavy on the drama (there’s little focus to the script for foreign audiences, as it seems more willing to settle scores within Brazil), it’s certainly admirable for the way it graphically describes a complex system of corruption, shifts allegiances and even unceremoniously kills off a recurring character.  When corruption comes from within, there are no easy answers, and even fewer excuses for a shoot-‘em-up climax.

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