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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Elite Squad (2008)


Never thought I’d say this, but those poor drug dealers.

Rio de Janeiro is not a very nice place to live. It’s filled with drugs, sweat, crime, murder, more crime, sex, corruption, and a whole lot more crime. No matter how hard the local police-force try either, it seems like it’ll never be fixed, if mainly because most of the force is as corrupt as those committing the crimes in the first place. However, there is a certain certain force that takes matters into their own hands and makes sure that crime doesn’t begin to escalate, and more and more innocents are injured or killed. Their name – BOPE (Special Police Operations Battalion. The captain, Nascimento (Wagner Moura), is the head honcho in charge here and always makes sure things go according to plan, even if he does have the occasional “snap-out” every once and awhile; but he’s getting treated for it and has a baby coming on the way, so maybe it’s not best for him to be around so much violence, death and crime, right? That’s why he decides to start training, brain-washing and beating-down several possible recruits to fill-in for his job, and he thinks he’s found it in both Neto (Caio Junqueira) and Andre Matias (Andre Ramiro). Both are good buddies, but are different in their ways, except for one key similarity: They want to enforce the law and take those down who go against them.

"What? All I said was, "What's up?""

“What? All I said was, “What’s up?””

We’ve all seen the Brazilian, gangster-thriller done before, right? Well, in case you haven’t, trust me, all you have to do is watch City of God and you’ll get a pretty clear picture of what these types of movies are like – violent, dirty, gritty, raw, unflinching, bloody, and usually filled with all sorts of coke, weed, heroin and other drug paraphernalia that I’m even afraid to admit to knowing, in hopes that the CIA isn’t spying on me. I may make it sound like any other ordinary crime-thriller involving gangsters out there, but that movie in and of itself is just about perfect and shows you exactly what one can do with the a tired genre like the crime one, and find a way to spin it on its head in an energetic, creative and original way.

But, as you know by actually visiting my blog, this isn’t a review on City of God, this is a review on Elite Squad, and what a damn shame that is, because this movie doesn’t really deserve your time of the day to be viewed, nor does it really deserve my precious time and effort to be reviewed. Although, since I am a dedicated film-nerd/blogger, I have to stick to my guns and try my very hardest to inform you people on any movie out there, good or bad.

And this is one of those latter ones, which is a shame because just reading that premise up above made this seem like something that would kick all sorts of fine-ass. Somehow though, it does, but not in the right ways. I’ll give director José Padilha credit for one thing, and that’s for at least making me feel like I was on the dirty, disgusting and corrupt streets of Rio de Janeiro, where anything could go wrong at any second, to any person, for any reason. In ways, with the hand-held camera-style Padilha so clearly loves and embraces, I felt as if I was watching a documentary where I was seeing a lot of these crimes being committed, on both sides. For that, Padilha deserves some admiration for sticking it to the streets and at least having me believe that I was watching something that could actually, believably happen on the real streets of Rio de Janeiro

However, that’s where the compliment begins and ends, because the rest of this flick is a mess, and it’s solely on Padilha’s part, and nobody else’s. The main problem Padilha runs into with this flick is that it’s so abundantly clear who he is siding with in this story, and that’s the police-force themselves. Sure, he shows them in some unflattering ways where police-chiefs are all about corruption, keeping your mouth shut and earning some dirty money on the side, but most of the time, he’s usually backing up these men-in-uniform, their actions and what they stand for. And it’s not like there’s a problem when you show your appreciation for the heroes who get stuff done and keep the crimes from happening more and more, but when you have those heroes putting plastic-bags over any possible criminal’s head, just to get bits and pieces of information out of them, the line between “glamorizing” and “being frank” gets blurry.

Here, Padilha seems to start off with the latter, where he shows that even though these guys do get their jobs done in an efficient manner, they’re still very messed-up in the head and not always honest people. But that all begins to change where we soon see that these officers are now carrying-out very violent, very disturbing actions in order to make their job a bit easier. Once again, I am in no way saying that we shouldn’t support and show our love for our local police-forces who are out there and risking their lives, so that our lives a bit easier, simpler and safer, but this movie really tests our patience with how far we’ll go to stand behind these men and root them on as they practically shoot, kill and violently torture anybody who slightly gets in their way. No, I am not a hippie, but I am a person who knows when “enough” is “enough”, and there came a certain point during this movie where I didn’t give a shit about any of these guys, what they were doing or who they were trying to find, capture and kill. All I wanted them to do was stop beating the ever loving shit out of everybody that they suspected to be a drug-dealer, even if that person was holding the slightest ounce of pot.

Poor old Johnny forget about those unpaid parking tickets.

Poor old Johnny forget about those unpaid parking tickets.

I mean honestly, sometimes you just have to say, “Leave me be, man.” And I felt like that many of times during this movie.

Even the fine performances from the cast couldn’t survive this movie’s mucky moral-siding. All of the officers that this movie focuses on and actually gives two shits about, are relatively compelling to watch and can be interesting at times, but later on, they just turn out to be a bunch of sick, twisted and sadistic nut-jobs that you’d neither want to help you out of a burning car, patrolling your neighborhood, or anywhere near your friends or family for that matter. Now, I don’t know how they do things in Rio de Janeiro, but in the U.S. of A, or practically anywhere at all in the world that isn’t Brazil, we don’t want these kind of crazies coming around, enforcing the law, and making sure all is well and doesn’t go bump in the night. We already got our hands full, you know?

Consensus: Those who want to take a life in the police-force will probably find Elite Squad to be somewhat “inspirational” to them, but even then, I don’t know if any person’s morality can stoop so low as to applaud these men for what they do in order to get their job done, all in the name of “the law”.

3.5 / 10 = Crapola!!

I guess this is the part where you say, "Freeze with your hands up!". But it's cool, just fire away!

I guess this is the part where you say, “Freeze with your hands up!”. But it’s cool, just fire away!

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderComingSoon.net

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23 responses to “Elite Squad (2008)

  1. aliewsMuses February 10, 2014 at 5:33 am

    I’ve seen this but it must’ve been worse than I thought as I can’t remember much of it. Good thing we have IMDB, it is overrated on it though. Good review, thanks for telling movie fans it’s not worth watching!

  2. Nick Powell February 10, 2014 at 5:54 am

    Oh man. Fuck this. 3.5? Really? Ouch. The whole reason behind the fact that so many of the officers and what not are morally bad is the story about what is actually happening Brazil. No matter what you do, no matter how good you try to be, the corruption continues and you can’t do a damn thing. This is a phenomenal flick with great directing, INSANE acting, and so much great. Hate you didn’t like it…

    • CMrok93 February 11, 2014 at 9:53 pm

      Yeah, for some reason, it just wasn’t for me. I get that this is probably what the real-life officers have to go through on a daily-basis, but it just didn’t seem totally right to me that we should be sticking up for these guys when they’re practically beating the shit out of everybody in their war-path. I get that they are trying to enforce the law, but in some ways, they are only making it worse and a lot more sadistic.

  3. JustMeMike February 10, 2014 at 6:08 am

    Hey Danno –

    I liked this one well enough to go out of my way to see the sequel which is called Elite Squad: The Enemy Within. I thought the sequel was much better.

    This is a film where law & order cannot be considered in the same way as we think of them here. I think I used the term that ‘mean streets’ is not even close to being a proper description for the life on those streets.

    Here’s a quote from my review:

    There was a bit of controversy about this film. Many people felt that the BOPE tactics were as criminal as the activities of those who were their targets. Others said that the film sort of made those BOPE officers heroic while Nascimento was just as good at killing as Baiano and that was hardly heroic. You’ll have to see the film yourself in order to decide what is the right answer to that question.

    I think the real answer is that both sides of the argument are true. Those neighborhoods were abandoned by the honest police, who were few and far between. So the Elite Squad did what it could – and even without them be described as heroic – they were necessary.

    I hope you will do a review of the sequel.

  4. Mr. Movie February 10, 2014 at 6:26 am

    Having seen the new ‘Robocop’ last week, I can assure you that it’s definitely better than ‘Elite Squad.’

  5. Nostra February 10, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Shocked to see you rate this so low. I thought it was very good and that the sequel also was well worth watching.

  6. thomasjford February 10, 2014 at 8:42 am

    I always heard the Elite Squad movies were supposed to be really good? I have them to watch at some point but now I’m not so sure I’ll bother!

  7. jjames36 February 10, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    I always assumed this was terrible. You make it seem that instinct was correct. Good review.

  8. The Vern February 10, 2014 at 5:00 pm

    Nice review. I was curious at checking this out because of the new Robocop. Now im nervous about both movies. The fact that it sides with these cops who are beating up just suspects without any satirical edge makes me a bit nervous to see it. Thanks for another good review

  9. Three Rows Back February 10, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    Hmmm, you and I differ in this Dan. I remember liking it (and the sequel too).

  10. Matthew Ryan February 10, 2014 at 6:32 pm

    Hmm. I was just thinking about checking this out the other day. I suppose I probably shouldn’t! Thanks for the review.

  11. thycriticman February 11, 2014 at 8:09 am

    It it rare that you hand out very negative ratings, so this much be awful. I have heard a ton of hype about the Elite Squad films, so surprised it was this bad. I do have to check out City of God though, because I hear that is truly enjoyable.

  12. Consumed by Film February 12, 2014 at 12:40 am

    City of God edges close to masterpiece territory, but this doesn’t sound great. My wonderment may tease me though! Good review Dan.

    Adam.

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