Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

In "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within," Jose Padilha Has Already Remade "Robocop"

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire November 9, 2011 at 10:43AM

In "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within," Jose Padilha Has Already Remade "Robocop"
4
Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within

Though many American critics thought otherwise, José Padilha's 2007 shoot-em-up "Elite Squad" was among the top action movies of the past decade, a relentless and thoroughly immersive look at the brutal street tactics of Rio de Janeiro's Special Police Operations Battalion, aka BOPE. Those perturbed by Padilha's portrayal of BOPE's mercilessly violent approach to combating the local drug trade missed its skillful blend of harsh naturalism and social commentary.

In Brazil, "Elite Squad" and its sequel have become blockbusters for good reason: Padilha channeled national frustrations into zeitgeist entertainment. The follow-up, "Elite Squad: The Enemy Within," has less success than the first installment in achieving that aim, but still keeps the snazzy combination of spectacle and polemics in check.

While it opens in North America this week, "The Enemy Within" has grossed close to $63 million at the Brazilian box office, shattering records with nearly six times the cumulative take of the first installment. The franchise caught Hollywood's attention, leading to Padilha's current gig as the director of Sony's upcoming "Robocop" remake, a job that initially went to Darren Aronofsky. He might have tapped into the body horror associated with Paul Verhoeven's subversive hit, but Padilha is well positioned to explore the totalitarian near-future police state that the cyborg represents.

If nothing else, "The Enemy Within" continues to explore the furthest extremes of law enforcement in a society on the brink of lawlessness. These cops don't have superhuman abilities, but they often act like they do. The first movie explored the extensive training process for new BOPE recruits overseen by Capt. Nascimento (Wagner Moura) -- a frenetic combination of physical abuse and degradation intended to create hardened killing machines. As Padilha depicts it, BOPE agents routinely use suffocation as an interrogation method and fire at will when dealers enter their crosshairs, replacing the need for judge or jury with the finality of a bullet.

"The Enemy Within" functions as Padilha's "The Godfather, Part II" in that it builds on the world introduced in the first movie with the maturation of its leading man. Padilha provides a deeper look at Brazilian crime industry from Nascimento's perspective. When the BOPE head is promoted to the role of Sub-Secretary of Intelligence, he's even closer to a web of internal corruption. Labeled a national hero after his role in ending a prison riot, Nascimento infiltrates the governor's inner circle and gets a crash course in institutional control, facing a divide between professional responsibility and his personal moral code.

Among his discoveries: Cops steal weapons for their own underground trade and take cues from criminals holding court in public office. This causes Nascimento to question his allegiances, especially as he must cope with the impact of his public reputation on his rebellious adolescent son and an estranged wife. Finally, when the system fails him, Nascimento goes rogue.

Padilha's career is fairly unique in that he oscillates between large-scale action pictures and more conventional documentary projects, including "Secrets of the Tribe" and the acclaimed "Bus 174," a tragic hostage tale that deals with the same issues of police ineptitude at the center of the "Elite Squad" saga. Beyond the subject matter linking his fiction and non-fiction work, Padilha uses a documentary technique to frame his action. His handheld camera moves fast and gets uncomfortably close, creating a viscerally engaging experience rooted in urban realism.

"This may sound like a Hollywood cliché," Nascimento says in a voiceover at the beginning of "The Enemy Within" while dodging a hail of bullets. At first, Padilha positions Nascimento and his top trainee (André Ramiro) as two good guys in a sea of self-interests, but that angle dissipates in the face of too many vast conspiratorial forces in play. Instead, "The Enemy Within" devolves into a series of brash confrontations at the expense of emotional clarity. The death of a major character comes as a cruel surprise and registers cheaply, just like Nascimento's on-the-nose voiceover.

Over the course of "The Enemy Within," Nascimento makes the implausible transformation from homicidal avenger to social activist, turning against everything that seemed to define him in the first movie. No longer a being of free will, he's entirely behold to Padilha's agenda. In other words, the director has already made his "Robocop."

Criticwire grade:  B

HOW WILL IT PLAY? While Variance Films can't possibly propel "The Enemy Within" to the kind of massive commercial hit it has already become in its native country, the movie stands to do solid business in limited release, further setting the stage for Padilha's first American movie.

This article is related to: Elite Squad II: The Enemy Within, Variance Films, Jose Padilha, Portuguese, RoboCop






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome

Most Read



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More