Friday, October 23, 2009

Tropa De Elite (2007)


Two young idealistic cops, and childhood friends, the hot headed Neto (Caio Junqueria), and the intellectual Matis (Andre Ramiro) join up with BOPE in order to flush out the corrupt cops and drug dealers in Rio. Meanwhile BOPE Captain, Nascimento (Wagner Moura) seeks his replacement as growing stress of his job, and upcoming birth of his child, as he is tasked with cleaning the streets prior to the Pope's arrival.

Take City of God, throw it into the perspective of a group of vigilante cops, throw in a bunch more action/tension, and you just about get Tropa De Elite (Elite Squad). Inspired by a series of real events that took place during 1997, Tropa De Elite is a harsh look at the struggles of honest cops, torn between their morals, and the unstable current system. While the events are told from the perspective of Captain Nascimento, we see most of the events through the eyes of Matis and Neto. Neto in many aspects represents the torture hungry, militaristic nature of the BOPE, the self proclaimed "incorruptible" unit that took out anyone they deemed corrupt/flawed.

As a character study though Matis is the true star. Caught between his dream of being a lawyer, the rich's general hate of the police, and drug dealers supplying his friends. In the end Matis is forced to make some tough decisions, pushing his sense of right and wrong to the absolute breaking point. Representing the insanely violent aspect of BOPE is Nascimento, whose extreme nature, choices, and disinterest for human life makes him an exceptionally polarizing figure. It's quite obvious to the viewer that the writers (one of whom is ex-BOPE) have a general distaste for their methods, but it seems as if they struggle to truly villainize the BOPE, much in the same way they manage to do to the drug dealers and corrupt cops. Instead they make tough guy heroic vigilantes out of them, likely to inspire hard ons from war mongers, and people who think Dirty Harry was a hero.

It's not hard to see though why people like this film. It's a more action packed City of God that doesn't quite carry the same punch, but hits all the same blows. It's harsh, unforgiving, narratively creative, and manages to get all your sweat glands running from one intense scene to the next. As a visual film it's almost ripped right from the same page as City of God. Dark, shakey camera, lots of quick cuts during scenes, etc. This doesn't really deminish the film, but forces the viewer (anyone that's seen CoG) to draw comparisons, which isn't exactly in this films favor (or many for that matter). Though even then Tropa De Elite does perfectly everything it brings to the table, though it may be a bit hard to swallow for your everyday viewer.

Harsh, unrelenting, and intense, Tropa De Elite is a powerful film that carries the torch from where City of God left off and shows us a new perspective on that troubling time.

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