(On DVD, September 2011) It’s really unfair to compare Elite Squad to City of God, given the latter’s well-deserved reputation as one of the best films of its time. But the comparisons go beyond the fact that both movie come from contemporary Brazil: Both of them, after all, have been written by the same screenwriter, and if City of God was more interested in the criminal and bystanders, Elite Squad takes a look at the elite police forces fighting to clean up the corrupted mess that is modern-day Rio de Janeiro. But don’t think for a second that the focus on the police forces makes for a kinder, gentler film: Even the protagonist seldom hesitate to gun down suspects, torture persons of interest or indulge in a bit of gratuitous cruelty. Unusually structured, the film is narrated by a retiring police officer as he tries to pick a successor from two promising, but uneven recruits. Wagner Moura is sympathetic as the narrator, but it’s André Ramiro who captures the film with a performance that sees him go from a good-natured intellectual to a revenge-driven warrior. The solid script may skip over some of the transitional states, but it opens with an effective bit of structure, and ends at the perfect moment. The cinematography lushly captures the moden favelas, and a few action sequences help lift this dramatic thriller into more exciting territory without necessarily sacrificing the themes of the film to a purely action-driven film. A pretty good example of why even populist filmgoers should pay attention to world cinema, Elite Squad is a fascinating look in a very different culture where crime and punishment play out differently. It’s a damning indiction of police corruption and the endless cycle of violence that seems to grip the area, but mostly it’s an entertaining police drama with a heavy dose of moral relativism. The picture never bother to punish transgressions, in part because it’s so difficult to see who never goes beyond moral decency.