This review has been ‘repurposed’ from my other site, theOneliner.com
We take a return trip to Brazil’s Elite Squad of police / commando hybrids, as we find the entire point of the first film, that being the boss’s quest to find someone to replace him has been immediately upended. For reasons not entirely clear, Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura) returns to duty at the helm of a force still struggling with rampant crime in Brazil’s favellas and immediately finds himself in the centre of a controversy.
A botched, kinda, hostage situation at a prison riot puts him on a collision course with a human rights advocate, who also happens to have shacked up with Nascimento’s ex-wife and kid. This is given more importance early on than it really seems to deserve, given the rest of the film. However, his seemingly harsh, bullet-based justice finds favour with the general public and he unwillingly becomes a pawn in a political game, hoping to reach the other side of the board and become a Queen. Well, in the ‘more powerful’ chess-based sense, at least.
The bulk of the film is taken up with Nascimento’s ascension to a higher level, a Homeland Security style governmental role and attempting to crack down on both drug dealers and corruption in the police force. His basic idea is that by getting rid of the former, we should automatically get rid of the latter, however he hadn’t counted on the imagination, resourcefulness and political connections of the bent cops, as they transition from merely accepting bribes to forming entire protection rackets.
While I have heard far worse set-ups (or excuses, depending on your tolerance) for sequels, it seems a little like someone brainstormed “I know what the first film was missing – bureaucracy!” and started on that basis. As it happens, it’s turned out to produce a pretty compelling narrative that, sadly, also seems all too believable.
It could, perhaps, use a little more focus. There’s a lot of the early running built around the family drama and conflict between Nascimento, his ex-wife and her new husband that turns out to be nearly irrelevant to the events of the rest of the film, and play a little like an attempt to graft characterisation into a plot not otherwise built for it. However, it doesn’t get in the way of the pacing too badly, and I wouldn’t want to put myself in a position where I’m arguing against character development, so I’ll mention it no more.
I liked the original film well enough, albeit not quite as much as the buzz around it would perhaps warrant, and I like Elite Squad 2 just about as much – a rarity for a sequel. I can’t think of any major problems with the way the story is told – it’s dynamic, stylish and punchy. The narrative perhaps takes a little too long to get rolling, but once it does it’s easy to go along with.
I suppose my only minor issue is that in order to call itself Elite Squad 2 it has to jump through a few hoops and have returning characters act somewhat contrary to how I would expect them to, at least from as far as I recall their character temperaments and motivations from the first film. I wonder if the opening half hour might have felt more comfortable were it a film with no connection to the first.
Still, if that’s the limit of my problems with a film it must be doing something right, as it’s a pretty esoteric complaint. Overall, Elite Squad 2 is a very good police procedural, and it’s well worth a look.