Elite Squad II: The Enemy Within Review

Are you on the right side?

That’s the question Roberto Nascimento, Lieutenant-Colonel of the BOPE – that’s Special Police Operations Battalion in Brasilian apparently – wrestles with as he delves into the heart of Brasil’s slum darkness.

Elite Squad II: The Enemy Within begins with Nascimento getting into his car and driving into a hail of gunfire on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. The rest of his story is told in flashback, with Nascimento narrating how his journey lead him to such peril.

Nascimento was in charge of a botched armed police response to a riot at one of Brasil’s most notorious prison and new home to Rio’s most dangerous drug gangs. Just like the slums they used to terrorise, these recently incarcerated gangs had carved up the prison wings amongst themselves.

One of the three rival gangs manage to smuggle some guns in through a bent prison warden, and a blood bath ensues as they attempt to eliminate their rival gangs.

Believing it’s better to let these criminals tear each other apart, Nascimento let’s the inevitable massacre escalate. But a former history teacher with a passion for human rights and friends in high places is sent in to negotiate over Nascimento’s head.

This is Diogo Fraga, the sober yin to Nascimento’s raging yang; not to mention new amour of the Colonel’s former wife and surrogate father figure to his impressionable young son.

Predictably enough, negotiations go sour and some not so innocent people die.

Enraged by Nascimento’s utilitarian tactics, Fraga goes public with his grievances to the salivating media sources and their waiting video camera’s outside; leading to new directions for both Fraga and unexpectedly Nascimento too.

Having ridden a wave of public approval for his ruthless approach to dealing with Rio’s criminals, the incumbent government appoints Nascimento to a position of power and influence; where he can make a real difference to Brasil’s broken and corrupt state system.

But where does this corruption stem from; the slums Nascimento has been fighting all this time or from an altogether more devious source?

Elite Squad II: The Enemy Within is a fast paced, violent and uncompromising depiction of the institutionally corrupt nature of Brasil’s political system.

More than that, it’s an examination of the human condition and the inevitable consequences of a system of living that prioritises profit and material wealth above all else.

Director Jose Padilha leaves you wondering how effective treating the symptoms are when you refuse to contemplate addressing the cause.

Which seems rather prescient given London’s current febrile atmosphere, coupled with some clueless toff’s who’re running this country doing precisely that.

I wonder why they don’t want to address a system of social inequality that affords them such wealth and power?

It’s a mystery to me.

Aptly, the ensemble cast’s collective performance adds up to more than the sum of their individual parts; ensuring your attention is held til Elite Squad II’s climax.

And whether you’re a fan of Immanuel Kant’s personal politics of duty, or the more morally flexible approach favoured by John Stuart Mill, one thing’s for certain.

You better make sure you’re fighting for the right side.

Jonathan Campbell

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August 2011
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