By Jack “Booted Thug” Burton
Who among us can say they are prepared for this level of unadulterated, brain melting, gut punching awesomeness? Watching Elite Squad 2 is like getting blasted in the face with a commercial sandblaster at a Metallica concert while ninjas break white pine boards across your back. Watching Elite Squad 2 is like filling a turkey baster with scotch and Tabasco sauce and injecting it into your eyeball while a Marine drill sergeant screams obscenities at you. It will kick your ass. It will put hair on your chest, and then it will put hair on that hair. It is nothing less than the most bone crushing, flesh-searingly wicked police drama released in years.
As you can guess from the title, Elite Squad 2 is a sequel, and the director of both films has since been tapped to helm the reboot of RoboCop. I’ll tell you now, I was rather tepid on the idea of another RoboCop until I saw Elite Squad 2. Then, I just assumed Robocop made it. Brazilian filmmaker Jose Padilha continues the story he began with 2007’s Elite Squad. Police Captain Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura) and his friend Matias (Andre Ramiro) were bright, idealistic young cops in Rio De Janiero’s military police force. Then they join BOPE (pronounced “boh-pah”), an elite crime fighting unit tasked with taking out the city’s notorious drug lords.
Thirteen years later, Nascimento is head of the unit and Matias (Andre Ramiro) is his right hand man. They’re both a little less young and a little less idealistic. The city is still routinely rocked by drug violence, and the government is riddled with so much corruption, nobody bothers to fight it anymore. Nascimento’s team is understaffed and underfunded, but they’re the only law enforcement officers who still bother enforcing the law. This creates problems for the local Governor, who is in the pocket of the local militia, just like most of the city police. They want Nascimento gone, and they get their chance when a riot breaks out at Brazil’s most infamous penitentiary. BOPE responds, but not before prominent civil rights activist Diogo Fraga (Irandhir Santos) shows up.
Fraga is the sort of bleeding heart who believes criminals need hugs, not head shots. He shows up ready to hold hands with the prisoners and help them negotiate with police. Nascimento agrees, and BOPE shows up to negotiate – with hot lead. Mathias and his men kick down the doors, shoot everyone in the face, drop the mic and leave. Riot over. Humiliated, Fraga takes to the airwaves and accuses the police of murder. This is the opportunity the Government needs to get rid of Nascimento, but they can’t fire him after the successful raid. So the Governor kicks him upstairs, making him head of intelligence. A cushy desk job and a nice bump in pay should take the fight out of anyone, right?
Not so much.
Using his new found power, Nascimento gives BOPE more money, more equipment and more power. I think he even gives them steroids and raw meat. They sweep through Rio like a wave of hot, steaming death, bringing the drug syndicate to its knees. Problem is, with the crime lords no longer running the city, dirty cops move in to take over. And some of them turn out to be old friends. Things are worse than ever, and Nascimento finds himself having to fight the same battle all over again. Elite Squad 2 is full of endless twists, turns and narrative intrigue. It stuffed like a cannoli with car chase porn, gun porn, torture, screaming matches, and hot Brazilian girls in bikinis. Sure, it sounds over the top, but Padilha’s direction is so comparatively restrained that none of this never feels out of context. Besides, Brazilian drug lords are not nice people and Brazil IS full of super hot models.
But it’s the appropriate ratio of liberty versus security – a question every democracy has to grapple with, especially these days. That’s really the idea that’s at the core of Elite Squad 2. The movie asks some hard questions and it makes no compromises. It’s visually striking. It’s got inertia. It’s got energy. It’s got a thumping hip hop soundtrack (some languages lend themselves better to rap than English; Portuguese is one of them). This is the movie Michael Mann would make if Michael Mann were still MAKING Michael Mann movies.
Simply put – Elite Squad 2 makes sweet love to all other cop movies, and calls them names the whole time.
Yes, it has flaws. The level of grit will not be for everyone. There’s less graphic violence here than there SEEMS to be, but at times the film merely hints at horrors that are the worse for having to remain in your mind. And (at the time of this writing, anyway)unless you can understand Portuguese, you’re going to have to read a lot of subtitles.
We all want criminals to pay – but do we really want to lose our humanity in the process of punishing them? There’s always a middle ground, and in the world of Elite Squad 2, it involves kicking you in the face with a steel toed combat boot.
When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, and he looks you crooked in the eye and he asks you if ya paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye, and you remember what ol' Jack Burton always says at a time like that: "Have ya paid your dues, Jack?" "Yessir, the check is in the mail."