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Review: 'Elite Squad'

Thriller set in Brazilian slum captures brutal methods of Rio's SWAT-like cops, but offers little beyond its violence.

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A standard crime exploitation thriller dressed up as something important, Brazilian director José Padilha's "Elite Squad" pokes and prods the viewer to watch the brutal, indiscriminate methods of Rio's SWAT-like cops and then demands only one conclusion: That cops in Rio's drug-infested slums must do what they do and if that means rampant point-blank executions, so be it. So bloody and vile that you'll want to take a shower after it's over, the film halfheartedly balances its message by depicting a worn-down Elite Squad cop (Wagner Moura) leading regular and usually violent sweeps with the story of two rookies (played by André Ramiro and Caio Junqueira) who learn that do-gooder liberalism doesn't work. Given that Brazil, as a Latin American moviemaking powerhouse, steadily produces vibrant, vital films of real impact and humanity, it's a crime itself that "Elite Squad" – inexplicable winner of the Berlin film festival's top Golden Bear prize – may be the only Brazilian film that American audiences see this year. Grade: D (Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, and drug content.)


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