The Elite Squad
The first word to come to mind is “ugly”. Then “brutal”. Then “muddled”, which is probably the operative word that dictates the rest of my opinion going forward. Proud new RoboCop daddy Jose Padilha gets a lot of things right, such as in the general mood of the piece, the gnarly vibrancy and/or squalor of Rio de Janeiro and its slums, and the credible, gritty performances. But he gets some things wrong, mostly owing to his moral equivocation with the police corruption and gangland feudalism being explored here. City of God examined a lot of the same themes, but it never went out of its way to deepen the murk of the situation by supplanting the broader social ideas for Expendables-like action, which this clearly wasn’t meant to be, or shouldn’t have been. I’ll be the first to take my reservations back if it turns out I’m dead wrong about the intent, but it did seem like the Elite Squad themselves were being put on a certain pedestal as some kind of force for “good” amid a morally bankrupt and violent city, who consider themselves above the corruption of their ilk… just
before they go out and torture suspects and harass innocent people in their homes while fishing for intel. Not that the director is siding with them, necessarily, but the pointless narration from the brutish, unhinged hardcase of a main character creates a dramatic construct that seems to try casting him in a sympathetic light as the “good cop just doing his job in a bad city”. Without the narration it may have played differently, in a Bad Lieutenant sorta way, but as it is, it's an awkward balance.