Here's a violent cops and robbers story with a twist: no cops.
Just about everyone — especially the police — is a bad guy in Elite Squad: The Enemy Within, an epic crime drama from Rio de Janeiro with a thrilling pace and an over-the-top body count. In this tale, one man stands for law and order in the midst of widespread corruption. When he discovers that law and order stand for nothing in Rio, his fight against the criminal element extends from drug lords to politicians and special police.
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within begins with a rapid-fire introduction to Captain Nascimento (Wagner Moura), the boss of Rio's elite cop squad.
He narrates part of his story, explaining over quick snapshots all the risks of his work and how the demands of his job contributed to the end of his marriage.
A prison riot kick-starts the action. Here are the worst of the warring drug lords taking over their prison block (with plenty of inside help, natch), and here is Captain Nascimento's squad, the Special Police Operations Battalion, responding to the riot. His side hopes the drug lords kill each other and save everyone a lot of trouble.
On the opposite side is Fraga (Irandhir Santos), a left-wing academic and human rights spokesperson called in by the prisoners to help them negotiate. Fraga and Captain Nascimento are introduced as moral and political polar opposites; to make things worse, Fraga is married to Nascimento's former wife. Still, as the story unfolds, these two men who hate each other end up becoming allies of sorts.
Negotiations notwithstanding, the prison stand-off goes wrong. This event changes Nascimento's life, moving him into a security job from which he hopes to make an even bigger dent in the city's crime. All he ends up doing is making things worse. When it all gets personal, Nascimento, a la Charles Bronson, is not afraid to go it alone.
Elite Squad: The Enemy Within has a dark, brooding hero to admire, a terrific pace, a thrilling plot and just the sort of gasp-worthy, point-blank violence that nods at filmmaker Jose Padilha's documentary roots.
The film is a follow-up of sorts to Padilha's 2008 film Elite Squad, which concerned the way the favelas were controlled by the police. This 'sequel' is an unqualified hit in Brazil, where it has set all kinds of box office records, and it will no doubt draw a huge audience among North American viewers, too. The film is in Portuguese, with English subtitles.