(Jose Padilla, 2011)
Here is a schizophrenic production. Padilla's sequel to his controversial Elite Squad, which was accused of fascism due to its unblinking portrayal of Brazilian military police as apparently heroic defenders of public order in a chaotic state is an odd film. Partly its a staccato, panoramic documentary-style account of the unending corruption and violence which rules political life in Rio de Janeiro, its bent cops and murderous drug cartels. But it's also an amped-up action film, filled with fetishized assault rifles and shootouts in favelas, car chases and drive-bys, men screaming in one anothers faces.
As such it feels curiously unfocused for much of the time, then lurches into a vivid moment of mayhem whenever anybody brandishes a gun.
The thread holding it all together is the world-weary, Noirish voiceover by returning protagonist Rodrigo Mora as the head of the BOPE, the military police squad who handle SWAT style situations in Rio. He presents his world; both the warring factions pulling Rio apart and his personal problems which interlink later on.
The problem with this is that Mora's character is often absent for long stretches, his marital difficulties and problems with his son aren't given enough attention until late in the film, and many of the other characters are simple ciphers; figures who have a plot function but no personalities or interior life of any type.
Still, it just about all works. Padillas direction is confident and exciting, and his main character is Rio itself, a beautifully atmospheric city full of visually interesting contrasts. The cast is filled with great faces (even if some of them have nothing to do), Mora makes a doleful, intense lead, and Padilla knows how to stage an action scene. The burning anger which fuels the narrative is never forgotten, even at the height of the gunplay, and it elevates Elite Squad: The Enemy Within somewhat, gives it a soul most action films lack.