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Elite Squad: The Enemy Within at Tower Theater through January 19

Packing an entire season's worth of The Wire's dirty cops, self-serving politicians, serpentine plotting, and gruesome, wasteful collateral damage into just under two hours, this sequel to the 2007 Brazilian hit Elite Squad will test the ideological mettle of law-and-order conservatives and lefty peaceniks alike. That's a virtue, because though Elite Squad 2 (this movie's handier and more accurate original title) plays footsie with both socialism and fascism, it's never easy to peg. The film picks up on ultrajaded Rio de Janeiro supercop Nascimento (Wagner Moura), whose special ops unit BOPE botches a prison riot raid that hands his detractors a reason to kick him upstairs. Along with a cabal of government bureaucrats and a rogue police contingent intent on carving up the favela crime trade for itself, Nascimento's enemies include Fraga (Irandhir Santos), a human rights activist who's shacking up with Nascimento's ex (Maria Ribeiro). Fraga uses his own role in the riot to get elected to congress, and the two antagonists work from their polar positions to a corruption-busting collaborative climax that's as rousing as it is foregone. Screenwriter-director José Padilha favors the bullet-quick intensity and close camerawork of ES1 and his 2002 documentary Bus 174, and his preference for giddily shot bloodbaths will understandably irk hair-splitters. The unlikely last-act pact between Nascimento and Fraga — the lion and the lamb between the sheets at last — might be hard to swallow too, but its conviction makes it tough to dismiss.

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