Tag Archives: Nascimento

Part II of this Sequel Didn’t Suck.

We left off where Fraga and Nascimento have figured out that the “militias” purportedly formed to protect the slums are actually armed tax collectors.  The corruption ultimately goes higher up than previously thought.  In a plan to help the governor win re-election, a group of disguised militia men raid a hostile district’s police station and steals a cache of weapons.  While the local police chief is being interviewed by a controversial journalist, he asks that the recorder be turned off.  The chief knows that the thieves were militia, since they used references and equipment that police, not dealers, use.   In the counter-attack planned by the corrupt cops Fabio assures the Secretary that these are the drug dealers, saying that he got this from a “reliable source.” Rocha, the “god father” of the slums uses his power to bring Matias back into BOPE, further weakening Nascimento’s power.  Nascimento is against this mission as he has over 300 hours of recorded phone calls with dealers, that reveal the dealers know nothing about the guns, but the Secretary orders him to schedule the attack on the last favela (revealing that the governor planned the raid himself).

Nascimento plans the attack, but he is concerned about the corrupt officers, who usually let the dealers through the station. Matias devises a plan; He and rest of the BOPE team will arrive dressed as patrol officers and replace the corrupt officers in the police station.  The next day, BOPE team arrives and wipes out the dealers.  Matias manages to subdue the main dealer and tortures him for the information, but the dealer keeps telling that they didn’t steal the guns.

The minute Rocha and Fabio arrive during Matias’s “interrogation” they immediately shoot the dealer.  Furious, Matias orders the rest of the BOPE soldiers to carry away the dealer’s body, and then he confronts Rocha.  Matias tells Rocha that he could manage to get the information, as doubts about the guns being at the dealer’s favelas, and orders Rocha and Fabio to give him the source’s name by the rest of the day.  As he storms off in anger knowing he has been played, Rocha shoots him in the back, murdering Matias.  Fabio is not happy since Matias has saved his life but Rocha orders his units to give them a 15-minute window before reporting Matias’s death and concocts an alibi that he wasn’t with Matias when he was killed.

Nascimento confronts Fabio at Matias’ funeral, promising to find Matias’ murderer.  Concerned, Nascimento uses his power to listen to calls from Fraga’s phone, because of Fraga’s influence in the politics.  Meanwhile, Clara, the journalist, goes into one of Rocha’s favelas to make a story about corrupt officers. She is foolish.  Clara goes to an apartment run by an old lady to give her an interview, unaware that she has been paid by Rocha as an informant, and she stalks them and makes a call to Rocha.  He arrives with his men, killing the reporter and raping and killing Clara.

Rocha takes Clara’s phone and burns it, but not before hearing Fraga on the phone, realizing that she has been talking to Fraga, who is shocked by this events.  Nascimento also hears this and records the data, taking it with him.  Realizing that Rocha is on his tail, Nascimento desperately tries to call Rosane, and he waits at her apartment.  Fraga, Rafael and Rosane arrive, and Nascimento tries to warn them about Rocha’s orders, but not before a drive by shooting seriously injuring Rafael.  Nascimento shoots one of the men and leaves with the trio, rushing Rafael to the emergency room.


As we stated before, the beginning of the movie is shown with Nascimento leaving the hospital and Rocha and his henchmen arrive and try to assassinate Nascimento.  But he is no fool and has his friends from BOPE in a backup car behind him.  He manages to defend himself from Rocha’s men, who barely escape after the failed attack.


Nascimento takes his men and confronts the Secretary, beating him and threatening that he will kill him and the rest of his corrupt men if anything ever happens to his son.  The next day, he is called on a trial in Brasilia and he testifies with Fraga for three long hours at the court, also regarding to dismiss BOPE.


In the aftermath, the governor is sentenced to a longtime sentence in prison, the Secretary is placed as the new governor, Fraga is still trying to enroll himself deeper in the politics, and many witnesses are killed so the militia officers can protect themselves.  Rocha is also killed on Fabio’s orders, with his body dumped into the sea.  Nascimento takes the Secretary position and still has control over BOPE, although much bigger now.  Nascimento ends his narration with the words: “And who is paying for all this? It must be expensive. Real expensive. That is the system, it’s tough.”

What is also tough is to compare the two movies.  While they are sequels, the films don’t take place where the first left off.  Elite Squad the Enemy Within takes place 13 years after the end of the first film.  So they really are almost 2 different movies with most of the same characters but, like in life, facing a new reality.  The film is shot using the same gritty, documentary style view for the audience and is just as violent when the violent hits.  All in all I would have to say these two movies are the best I’ve seen this year.  The Portuguese language is interesting to listen too, the story is great, the actors are perfectly cast and the filming technique is superb.



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Posted by on December 3, 2013 in Movie Reviews


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Sequels usually suck, but not this one: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010) Part I of II.

I am always skeptical of sequels so when I sat down to watch Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010) the follow up to the 2007 hit Elite Squad I was a little skeptical.  I thought that Elite Squad would be a really tough act to follow.  It takes a big man to admit he is wrong and I am not a big man; I was, however, wrong Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is just as good, if not better, than its predecessor.

The film has the look of a documentary including narration by now ranking officer of BOPE Colonel Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura) 13 years after the events of the first movie.  Nascimento is shown leaving a hospital and is being followed by a man reporting his moves into a Nextel radio.  Nascimento is telling the viewer that he was visiting his son who was seriously wounded in a drive by shooting probably targeted at the Colonel.  The Colonel knows something is not right and as he drives away from the hospital, a car corners him and several gunmen begin to shoot at him.  Meanwhile the Colonel is still narrating the scene as cool as a cucumber.  There is something important about the scene that we are not privy to until the end of the film.

Nascimento takes us back 4 years to describe the chain of events leading to his attempted assassination.  Now a Lieutenant Colonel in BOPE, he arrives at the Bangu Penitentiary Complex to put down a prison riot.  Bangu is apparently run like the Rio slums, with the same drug cartels simply segregated in different wings of the maximum security prison.   One of the corrupt guards is bribed into bringing weapons and ammunition to a faction and is turned into a hostage.  BOPE is called in to suppress the riot.  Nascimento calls the governor’s office and wants to use to this opportunity to let the drug dealers kill each other, but the governor waivers.  After taking out one of their rivals the prisoners know that BOPE has been called in and they are cornered.  Against Nascimento’s advice the prisoners say they will only negotiate with a human rights activist and history professor named Fraga (who also happened to marry his ex-wife).  Fraga goes in and exchanges himself for the prisoners.  Mattias (the on the ground Colonel’s replacement), against Colonel Nascimento’s direct orders, moves into the room where the standoff is taking place.  Fraga convinces his captor to lower his weapon but the second he does, Mattias shoots him in the head, as the Colonel tells the audience he trained him too do.

Problem comes with a blood stained T-shirt worn by Fraga.  As he is grandstanding before the press, he holds the Governor and the Colonel responsible for the bloodbath at the prison.  The Colonel reminds us that in less than one minute BOPE had the riot under control.  Given all of the controversial press the governor is inclined to remove the Colonel and Mattias from the BOPE squad.

Furious that he cannot get in contact with the governor or his direct superiors he barges in on their lunch meeting.  While Nascimento is walking through the aisle all of the citizens stand up to applaud and shake his hand.  Seeing that they may have made a poor political decision, the governor warmly embrace him and instead of discharging him, Nascimento is actually promoted to the under Sec. of Defense something no other BOPE commander has ever achieved.

In his quest to clean up the system, Nascimento turns BOPE into a war machine getting his squad armored cars and even a helicopter.  His plan works, all of the dealers are run out of the slums.  What Nascimento didn’t count on is that when the drug money dried up, that meant the corrupt cops would also be cut off from their sources of income.  One corrupt official in particular realized that there is much more money in taxing the slums as a whole rather than pestering dealers alone.  So these police militias were formed to “protect” the slums when in reality they were violent tax collectors.  So the corruption fees went from $30,000 per month to $300,000 per month organized similar to the lines of the traditional Mafia.

Ironically Fraga (who thinks the Colonel is a fascist and tries to keep his own son away from his father) and Nascimento (who thinks that Fraga is a left wing politician capitalizing on human death and misery) both are right to a certain extent however, but they are also the only two who really understand what has happened; that is, the police have become far worse that the dealers because they are abusing their power under the color of state law against everyone not just users and other criminals.  Fraga, now a state legislator, wants to hold hearings but is rebuffed because it is an election year.  Nascimento has built the perfect war machine which has does its job, but can’t be turned on the police.

So what are they to do?  We will discuss that in Part II.


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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Movie Reviews


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This country would go bananas if we had a unit like BOPE: Tropa de Elite (2007).

Several years ago a masterful Brazilian film Cidade de Deus (City of God) provided audiences with a rare and graphic insight into life in the favelas, the slums of Rio de Janeiro.  Originally, the favelas were constructed by the city to isolate the poor.  What should have been apparent in this stroke of urban planning genius is that these slums would be ruled by drug cartels with lethal and unrelenting turf wars.  These criminals are not afraid to shoot back at the police, in fact the traditional city police rarely entered these territories for fear of getting shot and residents were considered lucky if they reached the age of twenty.  The City of God is a truly innovative and highly stylized story told from the point of view of the young gangsters, which was totally convincing.

Enter Tropa de Elite (Elite Squad) a brutal film set in the same favelas but the story is told from the point of view of the police – or rather the BOPE, an elite unit of paramilitaries that is feared by the regular corrupt police and the criminals alike.  This unit, known as the “skulls,” is a law unto itself and actually answers to no one outside of the BOPE organization.  With set jaws and clenched teeth, these black-clad warriors deliver on-the-spot justice from the barrels of their weapons and have no problem gratuitously torturing hapless victims in broad daylight on the off-chance that they may have information they want.  There is no element of boredom, humor or conventional film characterization as these men carry out their grim work.  The men are driven and, unlike most of the traditional police force, totally incorruptible. 

The plot is based on a pending the visit to Rio in 1997 by Pope John Paul II.  The Holy Father has announced he wants to stay close to the favelas rather than stay at the bishop’s palace in the city, and it is BOPE’s mission to make the slums safe so the Pope can get some sleep.  The stated mission appears to be irrelevant.  The daily war with the gangs predates the Pope’s visit and will grind on with the same intensity after he leaves.

The Elite Squad follows hard-core Captain Nascimento as he prepares to choose his replacement because he is an expectant father and after being forced to confront the fallout caused by one of his squad’s actions, he starts to find himself unable to cope with the life-threatening nature of the job.  Rookie cops Neto and Mathais are naïve new recruits to the regular police determined to stand against the corruption but trapped by its infection all the way to the top.  One of the two will ultimately replace Nascimento and the movie follows their turbulent time in the regular force and then through to joining BOPE and its merciless training regime to decide who can make the grade.

Elite Squad is played straight down the line and it’s as tough and no-nonsense as the squad it represents.  Tense gun-battles rage in the maze of the slums.  Interrogations by BOPE are swift, brutal and bloody.  Gang reprisals are just as swift and twice as unpleasant.  BOPE training makes DELTA Force or SEAL training look like Disneyworld.  For instance when a trainee falls asleep during a BOPE night class designed to put the students to sleep, Nascimento hands him a grenade and pulls the pin rather than a cup of coffee, instructing him that falling asleep again would kill everyone.

During the films shoots the crew was always working on the edge of danger.  Dressed as cops inside the favelas, the crew had to wear bullet proof vests with ‘FILM CREW’ written on them over the uniforms while the cameras weren’t rolling.  Apparently one day all of the weapons were stolen and some crew members were kidnapped.  In terms of wishing for gritty realism the film makers got what they wished for in spades.  One of the vans was appropriated, with crew members and most of the weapons that were used as props inside.  Only after BOPE went on the hunt for several hours were the crew that had been taken forcibly by criminals armed with hand-grenades and AR-15 rifles returned unharmed.  If that is not realism you tell me what is.

Both City of God and Elite Squad use a quasi-documentary filming technique that prevents the actors or actresses from knowing when they are on or off camera.  The technique, in my opinion, is exceptional.  It forces the actors to keep acting throughout the scene, go off script if necessary and do whatever it takes to keep them on their toes until the shot is finished.

All in all Elite Squad is the flip side to the coin portrayed in Fernando Meirelles’ City of God.  Both are excellent films that use a not often spoken language (Portuguese) which is interesting to listen to as you follow the subtitles.

Next Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (Portuguese: Tropa de Elite 2 – O Inimigo Agora é Outro; Lit: Elite Troop 2: It’s Another Enemy Now; also known as Elite Squad 2) from 2010.

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Posted by on November 12, 2013 in Movie Reviews


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