I have 469 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010)
What’s it rated? Unrated for rampant corruption, savage beatery and an overall disregard for human life.
Did people make it? Written by José Padilha and Braulio Mantovani. Directed by José Padilha. Acted by Wagner Moura, Irandhir Santos, Andre Ramiro, Milhem Cortaz, Seu Jorge, Sandro Rocha and Andre Mattos.
What’s it like in one sentence? It’s what happens when a warrior becomes a bureaucrat.
Why did you watch it? Louis Pantelakos Jr. and WeAreLegion made me intrigued. So I did.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Taking place several years after the first Elite Squad, The Enemy Within picks up as all of Lt. Colonel Nascimento’s chickens come home to roost. He’s driving away from a hospital and being followed by several carloads of guys, who proceed to cut him off and start unloading their automatic weapons at his car. We then jump back to see how he got in that predicament and what his personal fallout was after the first film.
Play or remove from my queue? Play it with gusto. I do, however, recommend you watch Elite Squad before tapping into this one. The lion’s share of pleasure I derided from The Enemy Within was based on the continuing arc of the series’ lead hero, Col. Nascimento. The first film was largely concerned with Nascimento’s search for a replacement in Rio’s military police unit known as BOPA. He had a wife and newborn son and felt that the stress and staggering amount of constant danger wasn’t conducive to being a new father. On a larger scale, the film was about exploring the dangers of the favelas run by drug lords, as opposed to the regular police department’s near across the board corruption. In The Enemy Within, we find Nascimento now running BOPA, since no one could even remotely replace him. His wife is long gone with their son and she’s married to Nascimento’s most outspoken critic, a human rights activist named Diogo Fraga. After a hostage rescue at a prison where the leader of the riot is gunned down while unarmed (and after releasing the hostage), Nascimento is expecting that to be the end of his career, only to be promoted to a post in Rio’s government with the Secretary of Security. Once that happens, the film starts hammering home its themes of corruption, while putting one of the very few incorruptible men in Brazil in the middle of it.
Without having seen the first Elite Squad, Nascimento’s arc won’t be quite as profound, nor will the true brilliance of Wagner Moura’s performance be evident. Even when he was torturing drug dealers in the first film, or reacting in a blaze of white hot anger, Moura imbued Nascimento with enough decency, intelligence and wit to keep the audience firmly on his side. In The Enemy Within, he’s now behind a desk and dealing with the corruption behind the corruption he fought so hard against his entire life. Watching him come to terms with the fact that his bosses are, in fact, worse than any drug dealer he’s faced yet, and their stable of cops are so dirty that they’re just referred to as a militia, is one of the acting highlights of the year in film for me so far. Moura is so good that I actually looked him up on Netflix and saw that he’s an actor just like everyone else and not some elite warrior that they got to star in the film, Act of Valor style.
The amazing work doesn’t stop with Moura, though. A little cameo with Seu Jorge was enough to remind me of how good he was in City of God and The Life Aquatic and made me wonder why he doesn’t do more acting. He plays violent drug lords with style and panache. Also, the directorial skills of José Padilha are staggering. The man is an expert at pacing and flow. The minutes zoom by while the film was on and my biggest disappointment was when I realized the film only had 10 minutes left. Padilha’s remake of RoboCop is high on my hype list now that I’ve seen what he can do. Padilha is a major talent and I’ll be watching his earlier film, Bus 174, later today in order to fill in his filmography gaps.
The Enemy Within can only be described as a quiet action film. Whereas the first film was a marriage of gritty, handheld imagery and startling and abrupt violence, the sequel trades in a lot of that for thoughtful discussions of oppression, corruption and humanity’s responsibility to protect the poor and weak instead of exploiting them. I would be remiss if I failed to mention what also seems like a complete reversal on the stance of the first film. Many of the complaints I read about Elite Squad were based on the audience’s viewing of the message of the film as sort of a neo-fascist manifesto about the need for these military police to sweep into a slum and clean it out with a hail of gunfire. The Enemy Within seemed to me to take the polar opposite stance of that by having Nascimento bear witness to the failure of many of BOPA’s practices and by having the one lone voice of reason be a left-wing civil rights advocate. It made me think that either Padilha had an extreme shift in his politics, or that the first film was just building a castle of ideas in order for The Enemy Within to tear it down. Either way, it’s a powerful reversal of ideologies and makes the series a crushing indictment of governmental and police corruption, while looking at it objectively from both sides of the argument.
Do you have a favorite line? Before Seu Jorge’s psychotic drug lord casually lights a man on fire he says “They fatten up the pig, now we gonna roast it” and I got chills all over my person. He’s come a long way from Portuguese David Bowie covers.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? It’s the highest grossing film of all time in Brazil, casually treating Avatar like it was Fern Gully.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? VIPs (Wagner Moura starring means I’m in), Man of the Year (looks like another incredible Film Movement title), Behind the Sun (I have issues with Rodrigo Santoro aka TASG), 36th Precinct (been wanting to watch this for a while) and Outside the Law (horribly titled Algerian War film).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Obviously, the first Elite Squad is required viewing, but I’d add City of God to the playlist and have yourself a depressing ass Brazilian film festival.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.4
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 4.3
Can you link to the movie? Sure!
Any last thoughts? While telling a complete and satisfying story, The Enemy Within still feels like the Empire of the series. I would love to see a third film pick up several years later that depicts what Nascimento’s choices have done to Rio’s governmental structure.
Did you watch anything else this week? I saw The Hunger Games (flawed, but still pretty damn great) and started watching Breakout Kings because I heard T-Bag from Prison Break pops up for an episode.
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, The Chaser? The horribly depressing ending is foreshadowed so early, that once the killer stumbles upon his intended victim (who had just escaped from his house) and murders her so casually and slowly, it felt like something that was always going to happen, no matter how hard her pimp tried to find her. She was doomed from the first frame and the slow burn of intensity and gloom never tried to make you think otherwise. This was a truly masterful film that has stayed with me vividly since I watched it. Also, the final knock-down drag-out fight between the pimp and the killer is a showstopper. One of the most intense final fights in recent memory.
Next Week? The Robber unless someone has a better idea.