Elite Squad – DVD Review

I just had my world rocked. A funny little foreign film waltzed into my life and forever changed my opinion of action films. The Brazilian film Elite Squad just rocked me to my core.

I don’t even know whether I can review this film without falling into ridiculous hyperbole and non-stop discussion of how much ass this movie kicked. But I shall try mein best.

If this is the kind of movie that is making huge dollars in Brazilian theaters while American Box Offices are topped by an animated Russell Brand rabbit “comedy” then I’m moving to Brazil, if I can keep from killing myself the next time a Hop and an Arthur trailer run during the same commercial break.

Elite Squad focuses on the efforts of the cops to combat the rampant gang and drug violence in Rio de Janeiro while also battling the wanton corruption and apathy within the police department. The movie has a winding plot where it doesn’t necessarily set up its major conflict at the beginning of the film. Elite Squad has some heavy narration/expository voice overs during the early part of the film to help the non-Brazilian viewer wade his way into the political/social environ that the movie portrays. The director, Jose Padilha, deftly informs the viewer without it being a ham-fisted history book excerpt.

About halfway through the film, the focus shifts to our two rookie cops joining Captain Nascimento’s Elite Squad (BOPE, in the film). But I’m just rambling about plot now (I think that’s bad in film reviews).

The movie has a feel of The Wire, mixed with Michael Mann’s Miami Vice and a generous dose of Mark Bowden’s Killing Pablo. The film is shot in the digital, hand held style which is normally a major problem for me. However, this film’s effects… i.e. the weapons, people, locations… are so realistic and well done that the hand held, digital style works exactly like it is intended to. Padilha puts the viewer in the moment in a way that wide panning shots and more traditional cinematography cannot. The action feels real, the immediacy of the violence is at times sickening and truly a sight to see.

I was so impressed by Jose Padilha’s control over the movie. The action is so chaotic at times, the winding and multi-tiered favelas could have so easily reduced the action scenes to confusing, random quick cuts (Hi, Quantum of Solace). Padilha and his editing team need to be recognized for doing a wonderful job in presenting that perfect balance that makes the film so damn good.

I really dislike that trailer actually because the voiceover is very misleading as to what the film is about. So ignore that doofus, trust your pal Seth Brundle.

*Additional Note

One perk of being four years late to the party on Elite Squad is that Elite Squad 2 is already out and has already become the highest grossing film in Brazil’s history. The sequel is from and starring the same people that made the original so friggin’ good. 2 played to great acclaim at Sundance and I will be anxiously awaiting any chance to see it.

Bonus trailer!

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