Very few storytellers have the wherewithal to attempt something as comprehensive and kaleidoscopic as “The Wire,” but in his second police fiction set in the favelas, the huge slums that surround and envelope Rio de Janeiro, José Padilha is on the scent. “Elite Squad 2: The Enemy Within” (Tropa de elite: O inimigo agora e outro) is a headlong, violent, breathless, melodramatic, and even exhilarating rollercoaster ride spanning four years as an intelligence agent unfolds not just criminal conspiracies, but organized crime inside the police force. (It’s Brazil’s highest-grossing film and its Best Foreign Language Oscar entry.) This hyper-hyper maelstrom of moral conflict and straight-up action is both involving and calculating: the first “Elite Squad”‘s sympathies seemed on the side of the more authoritarian and militaristic strains of Brazilian society. Rio looks magnificently harrowing throughout this documentary-trained filmmaker’s fierce fistful of righteousness, guns and machismo. In past weeks, the Brazilian police have sent armored police into the favelas to start some kind of clean-up before the 2016 Olympics. If “Elite Squad 2” is close to the truth, it’s going to take oh-so-much longer than that. Next up: Padilha reboots “Robocop.” With Wagner Moura, Seu Jorge (“The Life Aquatic”), Tainá Müller, André Ramiro, Milhem Cortaz. 116m. (Ray Pride)
“Elite Squad: The Enemy Within” opens Friday at Siskel.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.