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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Wagner Moura
Caio Junqueira
Andre Ramiro
Maria Ribeiro
Fernanda Machado.
Directors
Jose Padilha.
Screenwriters
Jose Padilha
Rodrigo Pimentel
Braulio Mantovani.
Running Time
114 minutes

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Elite Squad
Forget Brazilian drug dealers - worry about the police


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Plot
Rio de Janeiro, 1997. Captain Nascimento (Moura) wants to retire from Brazil’s BOPE squad before becoming a dad, but first he must find his replacement. Two rookie cops (Junqueira and Ramiro) are candidates, but are they tough enough?


Review
Elite Squad

Brazil’s BOPE squad is a bit like America’s SWAT team. But, instead of Colin Farrell and L.L. Cool J grappling with Olivier Martinez, this is a frantic depiction of police brutality in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Gunfire rings out across the favelas and bodies litter the streets, setting the scene for an intense hellride through a world of violent drug lords, disenchanted dirty cops and idealistic upstarts.

Roberto Nascimento is captain of BOPE, the unit charged with tackling drug-related crime in the favelas. He thinks nothing of interrogation techniques that end in grisly death, involving, say, a plastic bag over the head. But his methods get results so, when he plans to step down (at the behest of his pregnant wife), his superiors won’t let him go without training a replacement. Enter hot-headed Neto (Caio Junqueira) and do-gooder Matias (André Ramiro), keen to be in BOPE but naive about the job’s realities. Matias is at law school, dithering between being a cop or a lawyer, so he sees first-hand the chasm between the spliff-toting college kids and the drug lords who provide their wares.

The violence is horrific - a man being squeezed into a tyre stack and set alight is an image you’re unlikely to forget - but not gratuitous. And the soundtrack helps create the chaotic favela atmosphere rather than glamorising the brutality. Sadly, Nascimento provides an irritating and unnecessary voiceover throughout, narrating events that the audience can already see and are quite capable of judging for themselves.

This is where director José Padilha’s inexperience shows. He’s best known for documentaries like 2002’s Bus 174, and this is his first stab at drama. In fact, the film started out as a documentary, until Padilha realised he would risk his life making it. Instead, he co-wrote the script with Rodrigo Pimentel, a former BOPE officer, and Bráulio Mantovani, who earned an Oscar nomination for City Of God in 2004.

Exhaustively researched, Elite Squad picked up the Golden Bear at Berlin earlier this year. Presumably the judges found it refreshing to see a cop film that isn’t black and white, in which nobody is the good guy - and it is. But it would have been better without the intrusive voiceover.


Verdict
Despite the voiceover, Padilha has created a shocking insight into a world in which corrupt cops slug it out against drug dealers but, ultimately, nobody wins.


Reviewed by Rosamund Witcher

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Elite Squad
Empire Star Rating

RE: Elite Squad

Empire, your reviewers are becoming more and more inaccurate, tell them to get reality checks or fire them please. This is a masterpiece of reality based crime !!! ... More

Posted by Gillhead at 14:41, 16 January 2009 | Report This Post


Allright. Just 3 stars?

Ok, you gave this masterpice 3 stars? And you gave that piece of shit of Journey to the Center of the Earth 4 stars? What the fuck? This is an intense masterpiece about corruption and violence. And it has that brutal 'City of God' touch. The photography, the direction, the screenplay and the acting are terrific. So, I cannot believe this. This is a movie that shouldn't be unnoticed on the UK screens. A must-see. Flawless. Great Movie. Jose Padilha is very visionary. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 00:28, 08 August 2008 | Report This Post


Top-notch!

A must-see-balls-out-cut-throat-edge-of-ya-seat thriller. Don't fucking to miss this! I'm telling ya, man. You'll regret it if you don't see it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by nc_jj at 00:28, 08 August 2008 | Report This Post


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