Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is an arresting thriller about crime in Rio di Janero. And, if the film is to be believed there is a lot of crime in Rio di Janero. And drugs. And crooked cops. This movie would not be approved by the Rio tourism board. It is taut and informative and resembles a lot those moments in a Goodfellas or Casino when the machinations of crime are explained. I like those moments, but not for 2 hours. The Enemy Within feels much longer than it actually is thanks to its episodic nature. Things happen and then it is explained that they did nothing to alleviate the actual trouble and the cycle begins again. Director Jose Padilha has a background in documentaries and that comes through here in the verite style and the detail in which maneuvers are explained by the main character’s ceaseless and personal narration (often adding “my friend” at the end of sentences, as if having a conversation). Our hero is the only honest cop in South America it seems.
The movie is a sequel to 2007’s Elite Squad, unseen by me, but I could see how the story in The Enemy Within is part of a larger tale. Characters have changed roles when the movie begins that might come as a shock to students of the first film but to the uninitiated they work as a crash course in who these people are. The movie is gripping and provocative and it’s one of the biggest hits in the history of the southern hemisphere but the film would benefit from a little tightening by cutting a few of the endless raids in favor of spending more time with our protagonist both at home and certainly with his mirror image, a government official that he personally can’t stand (the senator is married to our cops ex-wife) but is his only ally in the fight against corruption.