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Film / The Elite Squad

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"There are three kinds of policemen in Rio. Those who are corrupt, those who look the other way, and those who go to war."
Roberto Nascimento

The Elite Squad (originally named Tropa de Elite) is a Golden Bear-winning 2007 Brazilian movie depicting the war between Rio de Janeiro drug dealers and the police - specifically, the BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais: "Special Police Operations Battalion"), the most feared police force in the State. In the midst of this war, Captain Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura) prepares for retirement as his first child is born. To replace him, there are two regular police officers - hotheaded Neto (Caio Junqueira) and the more intellectual Matias (André Ramiro). Add to the mixture police corruption, and you've got it.

The movie was quite a success in Brazil, strangely, even before being officially released after a Content Leak, with large amounts of pirated copies of it being sold, which ironically kinda contradicts the spirit of "don't finance crime" of the film. It was basically the greatest meme generator in Brazil in recent history, and its protagonist, Captain Nascimento, is now recognized as a true Memetic Badass.

It also stirred some controversy regarding human rights, due to the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique used by the BOPE crew, being the cover of some of the most important magazines in the country.

A sequel was released in 2010. In it, Nascimento (now a Lt. Colonel) is Kicked Upstairs after Matias kills an armed prisoner while controlling a prison rebellion. He uses the new job to equip BOPE and destroy most crime in Rio... which leads to the corrupt cops (referred to as "militia") deciding to take over the slums where drug dealers had control. Only gets worse from here. It became the Brazilian movie with the highest attendance ever in theaters.

José Padilha, who directed both films, went on to helm the 2014 remake of RoboCop.

Has a Character Sheet in construction.

Tropes featured in The Elite Squad films include:

  • Alas, Poor Yorick: A very squicky example when one of Rocha's henchmen are speaking to the burned skulls of his victims he just raped and killed while he is removing their teeth so they wouldn't get recognized.
  • Anachronism Stew: Given the first film is supposedly set in 1997, when Pope John Paul II visited Rio, a few elements don't fit the year (particularly regarding Product Placement, such as the cars and cellphones). For instance, establishing shots of the Sugar Loaf show a restaurant that was only opened in 2002, and Matias meets a guy asking votes for a Senate candidate one year too early (then again, knowing Brazilian politicians, asking for votes one year before the elections is definitely NOT too early).
  • Anti-Hero: BOPE are this or Villain Protagonists, depending on whether the watcher agrees with their methods or not.
  • Anyone Can Die: Sure, Matias, you survived the first film all right. Guess you're now immune, right?
  • Artistic Licence – Gun Safety: We see Neto practicing with a (presumably) unloaded pistol. Points at chair, click-click-click. Points at table, click-click-click. Points at Matias, click-click-click.
  • Badass Army: BOPE, full stop. Baiano's reaction after discovering the guy he just killed was one of them should tell you that messing with them is not the best of ideas. And then BOPE takes a level in badass in Tropa 2.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
    • In Tropa 1 Nascimento leads some BOPE troops to save Neto and Matias from drug dealers.
    • In the sequel, when Nascimento is cornered by the militia, some BOPE officials come to help him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Nascimento has a few personal victories in the sequel but corruption is still rampant, greater than he envisioned and not shaken a bit by his actions, and he himself acknowledges that.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: As cruel as BOPE is, the drug dealers are capable of being just as brutal, and the militia too.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Averted. Between white Neto and black Matias, it's Neto who bites the dust. Interestingly, it was in a trap intended for Matias. Who then dies in the sequel..
  • Blatant Lies: After Neto's funeral, Matias' ex-girlfriend gives him the address of Baiano's girlfriend, and pleads with him not to hurt her. Matias gently smiles and promises that she won't be harmed. The next scene is Baiano's girlfriend being tortured by Matias, with Nascimento offering pointers and commentary on technique.
  • Book Ends: Early on in Tropa 1, Nascienmento rants to some rich kid that BOPE is the one cleaning up the mess they got themselves into and should be using their money for something better. Near the end, Mattias rants to some college kids along the same lines.
  • Butt-Monkey: A lot of crap happens to Fabio, and he's singled out for the worst treatment at the BOPE training camp in Tropa 1. In Tropa 2, although he managed to get promoted to Colonel, he's still being bossed around by everyone, and his nominal subordinate Rocha pretty much ignores him. Until he kills Rocha and takes over his militia.
  • Call-Back: Matias' funeral in Tropa 2 is a direct callback to Neto's funeral in Tropa 1.
  • The Cavalry: The plainclothes BOPE operators who crash Nascimento's shootout with the militia in Tropa 2.
  • Character Development: Matias goes from idealistic cop to stone-cold realist in Tropa 1.
  • Chekhov's Gunman / From Nobody to Nightmare / Ascended Extra: Rocha, just a minor officer that appears on one scene in the prequel, becomes the militia's leader and main antagonist in the sequel.
  • Colonel Badass: Nascimento is a Lieutenant Colonel when Tropa 2 begins.
  • Container Maze: One is used to train BOPE candidates for operations in the narrow streets of the slums.
  • Cop Killer: When a bunch of crooks mortally wound an off-duty member of the BOPE (the Brazilian equivalent of SWAT and quite the Badass Army), they have a massive Oh, Crap! moment and rush him to the hospital (where he dies anyway). Captain Nascimento, the Memetic Badass teacher/narrator mentions that the crooks are clever to be afraid, because BOPE's reaction to such a death would be a no-holds-barred manhunt... which happens on the third act of the movie, with tortures galore.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Lots. It's a film dealing with Brazil's slums and cops, what did you expect?
  • Crapsack World: Tropa 1 hinted at it, but the sequel drives the point home that Brazil is corrupt to the bone.
  • Dead Star Walking: Seu Jorge in the sequel.
  • Deconstruction: The sequel does this to Nascimento and some aspects of the first film. The first film exhibits some of this, but to a lesser degree.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: The film became a hit partially because of its leak. Which explains why the DVD has three unskippable "piracy finances organized crime" warnings before the menu shows up.
    • Dolled-Up Installment: The street-DVD piracy got some real films and labeled them "Tropa de Elite 2" (a documentary about the war on traffic), "3" (actual BOPE images) and "4" (a Brazilian movie about the origins of drug-dealing group Comando Vermelho).
      • First-person shooter videogame Black was often bootlegged under the title "Tropa de Elite - The Game" in Brazil.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: Near the end of Tropa 1, Nascimento tries to get a mook to spill the beans on Baiano's location without having to torture. Unfortunately, the dumbass doesn't get the message...
  • The Dreaded: BOPE, in general. They actually thrive to be this, as even their symbol inspires fear.
  • Elite Army: BOPE deconstruct this; they can beat any number of drug dealers in a fight, but their limited numbers mean they can't hold territory and are limited to raids, meaning progress is very slow. Nascimento notes that the regular cops have the numbers to make things work, but the corruption means almost none of them will help.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Tropa 1 opens with Nascimento and a BOPE sniper observing a Dirty Cop selling police guns to a drug dealer. Nascimento is annoyed that they can't do anything, as they only have one shot and two targets. When the sniper tells him he can kill both parties with one round, a visibly pleased Nascimento tells him to go ahead.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Fabio orders Rocha to leave Matias alone because he saved his life in the Babilonia favela, 13 years ago. Rocha ignores him. At Mattias' funeral, Fabio is saluting along with the rest of BOPE.
    • Baiano orders the crooks who are with him to kill Neto to wait, as there's a kid with them.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: When Matias finds out that one of the pothead students at his university was responsible of Neto's death by telling Baiano about him, he finds the student in a protest against police brutality and beats the crap out of him, before giving a "The Reason You Suck" Speech to the rest of the students.
  • False Flag Operation: Rocha's militia steal guns from a police station in Tanque; the gangs are framed for the theft, giving an excuse for BOPE to clean them out, so that the residents will become voters friendly to Fortunato.
  • Foreshadowing: The starting scene is of Matias and Neto, the former on "lookout" to the left, and the latter on the sniper to the right. Nascimento's Establishing Character Moment scene two minutes later is of him and another sniper (refered as 14), on the same roles and positions. It gives away that Matias becomes Nascimento's sucessor.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: This is basically Matias's character arc in Tropa 1. He originally believed in justice and the legal system (so much so he was going to law school and went to interview for a job in a law firm), but the more he learns about the corruption of the normal police and the depravity of the drug dealers, the more he dies inside. After some losses that hit close to home, he snaps. By the end of the film he's fully embraced BOPE's brutal ways. By the second movie, he is even more ruthless than Nascimento, and suffers for it.
  • How We Got Here:
    • The first movie begins with Fabio and a bunch of corrupt cops entering the Babilonia favela and Mattias and Neto racing to an overwatch position. Neto gets on the sniper rifle and fires, as Nascimento talks about BOPE and the three kinds of cops in Rio... and then rewinds to the start of their stories, revealing that Matias and Neto are trying to keep Fabio from being killed, not sniping him.
    • The sequel opens with the militia gunning down Nascimento's car, Nascimento saying that in the face of death he started remembering everything... and when the movie returns to that scene, it's revealed that Nascimento is kinda safe, specially because some friends came to his aid.
  • I Have This Friend: Nascimento invokes this trope when he goes to a psychiatrist, unsure if he talks about all he has done in BOPE, she would have to report him. Ultimately, he doesn't talk.
  • In the Back: How Baiano fatally wounds Neto. Matias dies the same way in the sequel, ironically.
  • It's Always Sunny at Funerals: This is the case for Neto's funeral. Matia's too, in the sequel.
  • It's Personal: Nascimento already fights crime and corruption. Then in the sequel, Matias dies, and his son gets accidentally shot in a trap... it only gets worse for the bad guys from there.
    • Matias also goes through this when Neto is killed. Nascimento himself discusses the trope, noting that "he could use that feeling".
  • It's Quiet… Too Quiet: Baiano says this near the end. BOPE attacks moments after.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: BOPE's way of solving things, taken up to eleven. The summit of it... Let's just say it involves brooms.
  • Kicked Upstairs: When removing Nascimento from BOPE, they give him a spot in the Secretary of Intelligence. Subverted in that he uses it to equip BOPE and watch for crime, corruption and the such from inside the force.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: When Rafael is shot, Captain Nascimento gives a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown beating to a politician involved with the militias.
  • Kill It with Fire: A character is killed in a way the real Rio drug dealers call "microwave", but which is more commonly called "necklacing". It involves stuffing the victim inside a stack of tires and setting it on fire. A drug dealer called Qualé gets killed by his rivals this way in the beginning of the sequel too.
  • Knight in Shining Armor: Neto and Matias start out like this. Nascimento thinks that, to be part of BOPE, you need to be like this, but become the below trope.
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Nascimento, and most of BOPE's officials, really. Matias becomes a Knight In Sour Armor after Neto's death in Tropa 1.
  • Knight Templar: Captain Nascimento. Matias also becomes one by the end.
  • Large Ham: André Mattos as Fortunato, the pundit from Mira Geral. He is funny in the beginning, but then it is not.
  • Last-Name Basis: Everyone.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Nascimento is disappointed to learn that Neto is actually this once they carry out a real favela raid. He ends up having to bail the latter out.
  • Married to the Job: Nascimento, who in the first movie practically crushes his marriage because of his commitment to police duty.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Diogo Fraga was deliberately based on Marcelo Freixo, a real-life politician from Rio de Janeiro with a similar background as a human rights activist/historian that also dealt with militias.
    • Fortunato is a politician that hosts his own tv show much like TV personality Wagner Montes, another Rio de Janeiro politician that did that. That is the only thing they have in common as Fortunato is involved with corrupt militias, whereas his real-life inspiration never did such thing.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Matias trying to get Romerito spectacles. The student he told spilled the beans to the drug dealers and when Neto volunteered to help him pass them to the boy he gets fatally shot.
  • Not in the Face!: Baiano's plea when BOPE are about to finish him off, so as not to ruin it for the wake. Matias doesn't care.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • After killing Neto, Baiano almost pisses himself.
    "...Because Baiano knew that killing a member of BOPE was asking to suffer."
    • Earlier, during BOPE training camp, Matias is falling asleep during a lecture by Nascimento, who's speaking in a soft droning voice. Instead of giving him an asskicking, Nascimento simply puts a grenade in Mattias' hands, tells him to hold it, and pulls the pin out. Matias is instantly awake and wide-eyed.
    "Now, 07, if you are still sleepy. You are holding a live grenade. If you fall asleep, the grenade will fall out of your hands and go off and kill us all. Let's continue."
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: The main rooms in Nascimento's apartment have orange walls, and the bathroom is blue. Occasionally we see one room through the doorway of the other.
  • Papa Wolf: Colonel Nascimento.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: BOPE's philosophy. And it's pretty much the only way to see some justice being accomplished in the films, given the brutality of the gangs and the general apathy of anyone who isn't a direct victim thereof.
  • Pet the Dog: Subverted. At one point, Nascimento decides to try and find the body of a drug dealer whose death he indirectly caused (since the guy was supposed to look out for any BOPE members nearby and was executed when Nascimento and his men found the dealers), so as to give the boy's grieving mother some closure... by torturing another overlooker to know where the corpse is. Even worse, all BOPE members are called to stop the shootout that Neto and Matias caused, so Nascimento and his men execute the overlooker and the dead boy's corpse is never found.
  • Pop-Cultural Osmosis: The "Rap das Armas" (Rap of Weapons) song on the beginning of the movie turned a relatively obscure song into a hit. But the irony is that the bigger hit was not the Protest Song that is on the opening scene, but a cover glorifying the criminal life and using weapons to kill cops with it.
    • Real Song Theme Tune: Tihuana had a song titled "Tropa de Elite", which they declared was describing the band itself. But given the appropriate title, the filmmakers had to use it on the film's soundtrack, and is as much as associated with The Elite Squad and BOPE as possible.
  • Product Placement: A few in the sequel. It helps that like every Brazilian movie, the credits are preceded by the sponsors, so it's easier to recognize.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • Nascimento calls out a student for his drug-taking that puts money in the drug dealers' hands.
    You're the one who killed him! You faggot! You're the one who finances this shit! You pothead piece of shit! We come here to fix what you fuck up!
    • He also rants at Fabio during the BOPE training course about the latter's corrupt ways.
    02, know why you won't be able to do what I'm ordering you? It's not just because you're weak. It's because to wear this skull, 02, you have to have integrity. Something you don't. You belong with whores. You belong with pimps. You belong in abortion clinics. We don't like corrupt cops, 02. Corrupt cops don't make it in BOPE, 02.
  • Reassigned to Antarctica: When the precinct commander discovers that Neto and Matias took his bribes away from him, he has Matias assigned to the cafeteria and takes Neto's best mechanic away.
    • After the uproar over how Matias puts down a prison riot in Tropa 2, he's reassigned from BOPE to a desk job. After publicly bitching about the politicians and rules of engagement, he's kicked down to a store room.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Neto and Matias. Neto is hot-blooded, impulsive, wants to fight crime by going to war with the gangs, and is shown working out and practicing with his pistol many times; Matias, on the other hand, is more calm, studious, and wants to become a lawyer to defend the law. This is lampshaded by Nascimento when he's pointing out their defining qualities in his narration: Matias's is his intelligence, while Neto's is his heart.
  • Rivals Team Up: Nascimento and Fraga, in the sequel, join forces to expose the militia and many of the people involved, including senators, after Rafael gets shot and Nascimento is nearly ambushed.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge:
    • Matias took Neto's murder preeeeetty hard.
    • In the sequel, Nascimento after his son gets shot.
  • Shotguns Are Just Better: "BRING THE 12!"
  • Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids!: Neto is insulted as naive by Fabio when the former is incredulous about the precinct commander's getting paid off by the drug dealers. He quickly learns to turn the cops' bribe-taking against them. Matias doesn't.
  • Slowly Slipping Into Evil: Discussed with regards to Dirty Cops.
    The first time is always a good cause. But once you steal for the force you'll also steal for your family. That's how the system works.
  • Sociopathic Hero: BOPE, full stop. Civil rights do not exist for them. On an individual level, Nascimento notes that Neto has "an itchy trigger finger."
  • The Spartan Way: BOPE training. And the officers are already told not to burst trainees' eardrums or cut off fingers, although those are claimed to be accidents. The very first thing that happens is the trainees getting slapped and shouted at until at least one person breaks. It also includes beatdowns and being made to eat food that's been dumped onto the ground. Nascimento notes that the brutality is deliberately meant to weed out those who can't take pressure and punish the corrupt; usually only 5 out of every 100 make it all the way through. He claims it's tougher than Israeli training.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: Matias and Maria. He was a cop. She had drug connections. Their relationship could never have worked.
  • Strawman Political: Fraga is seemingly set up as a Strawman Liberal in the second movie since he represents all criticisms leveled at BOPE's brutal methods.
  • Sudden Principled Stand: Near the end, during the final search for Baiano, Renan expresses doubt when they start breaking down the doors of the innocent. Nascimento lets him take some kids out of the area and leave.
  • Sunglasses at Night: Invoked in Tropa 1 when Renan is told to put on shades while indoors to hide his pink eye.
  • SWAT Team: BOPE originally started as a relatively peaceful hostage rescue team, before evolving into a Badass Army fighting fire with fire. Tropa 2 shows an example of an attempt to return to their roots, when deployed to suppress the prison riot... except that rather than control the situation, Nascimento suggests letting the criminals kill each other and then mop up once they're spent.
  • Take a Third Option: Villainous example in the sequel. After Nascimento and BOPE weaken the drug dealers that they do not have the ability to secure the favelas as their strongholds, Rocha and the dirty cops find another source of income by becoming illegal essential services providers to the favelas, in addition to running protection rackets.
  • Take That!:
    • In the sequel, Nascimento is annoyed that people call him a fascist.
    • When the invasion of the Tanque favela fails to find the stolen police guns, Nascimento tells his assistant to call it "Operation Iraq."
    • The sequel also is a Take That! on the entire corrupt system.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Fraga and Nascimento really hate each other's guts, but they do manage to work together to eventually launch a corruption investigation that puts away a number of militia-connected politicians in Tropa 2.
  • Therapy Is for the Weak: In Tropa 1 Nascimento is sent to see a psychiatrist, but he can't or won't open up to her about his problems. Admittedly, she failed to recognise when he tried to use I Have This Friend.
  • There Are Three Kinds of Cops in Brazil: As quoted up there, Capt. Nascimento's opening monologue.
  • Training from Hell: An understatement if you ever saw one, even including Taught by Experience.
  • Trailers Always Lie:
    • The US release trailer implies Matias and Neto as joining BOPE to avenge a girl they loved who was killed by gang violence. They got into BOPE after inadvertently triggering a shootout between drug dealers and Dirty Cops, and were sick of the corruption in the police. Said girl is killed after they're already recruits and leave her, in the scene listed above in Kill It with Fire.
    • The "International Trailer" on the UK DVD has two brief shots of a cemetery filled with small white crosses. This is not a police cemetery - it is where failed recruits bury their numbered hats.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Captain Nascimento is either this or a Villain Protagonist depending on the viewer's interpretation of the character.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The unknown journalist who takes a photo of Matias and inadvertently reveals the fact that he's a cop to the drug dealers. It ruins Matias's relationship and leads to another character's death.
  • Values Dissonance: In-Universe example from the sequel: The human rights people and some politicians are highly critical of Nascimento and BOPE after a criminal is killed in an operation (to be fair, he was holding a negotiator hostage). When Nascimento goes to see his superiors and such in a restaurant to discuss this matter, every other patron stands up and applauds Nascimento!
    "To normal people, a good criminal is a dead criminal."
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: A few of the incidents are true, seen in BOPE training or the Rio crime pages.
  • Vice City: Rio. Drug dealers rule the favelas, brutally murdering those who "offend" them. The normal police are corrupt and firmly in their pocket. Rich, ignorant students fund the drug dealers and misguidedly rail against the police. The closest thing to a beacon of light in this darkness is the fascist, torturing BOPE, who would be villains in a less cynical work. The sequel adds Lawman Gone Bad militia who violently feud with the dealers and the corrupt politicians aiding them.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: Baiano certainly wouldn't; when he's about to ambush Neto, he tells his men to wait, since there's a kid next to them.
  • You Are Number 6: In the first movie, Capt. Nascimento refers to his recruits by numbers.