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Sequels usually suck, but not this one: Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010) Part I of II.

I am always skeptical of sequels so when I sat down to watch Elite Squad: The Enemy Within (2010) the follow up to the 2007 hit Elite Squad I was a little skeptical.  I thought that Elite Squad would be a really tough act to follow.  It takes a big man to admit he is wrong and I am not a big man; I was, however, wrong Elite Squad: The Enemy Within is just as good, if not better, than its predecessor.

The film has the look of a documentary including narration by now ranking officer of BOPE Colonel Roberto Nascimento (Wagner Moura) 13 years after the events of the first movie.  Nascimento is shown leaving a hospital and is being followed by a man reporting his moves into a Nextel radio.  Nascimento is telling the viewer that he was visiting his son who was seriously wounded in a drive by shooting probably targeted at the Colonel.  The Colonel knows something is not right and as he drives away from the hospital, a car corners him and several gunmen begin to shoot at him.  Meanwhile the Colonel is still narrating the scene as cool as a cucumber.  There is something important about the scene that we are not privy to until the end of the film.

Nascimento takes us back 4 years to describe the chain of events leading to his attempted assassination.  Now a Lieutenant Colonel in BOPE, he arrives at the Bangu Penitentiary Complex to put down a prison riot.  Bangu is apparently run like the Rio slums, with the same drug cartels simply segregated in different wings of the maximum security prison.   One of the corrupt guards is bribed into bringing weapons and ammunition to a faction and is turned into a hostage.  BOPE is called in to suppress the riot.  Nascimento calls the governor’s office and wants to use to this opportunity to let the drug dealers kill each other, but the governor waivers.  After taking out one of their rivals the prisoners know that BOPE has been called in and they are cornered.  Against Nascimento’s advice the prisoners say they will only negotiate with a human rights activist and history professor named Fraga (who also happened to marry his ex-wife).  Fraga goes in and exchanges himself for the prisoners.  Mattias (the on the ground Colonel’s replacement), against Colonel Nascimento’s direct orders, moves into the room where the standoff is taking place.  Fraga convinces his captor to lower his weapon but the second he does, Mattias shoots him in the head, as the Colonel tells the audience he trained him too do.

Problem comes with a blood stained T-shirt worn by Fraga.  As he is grandstanding before the press, he holds the Governor and the Colonel responsible for the bloodbath at the prison.  The Colonel reminds us that in less than one minute BOPE had the riot under control.  Given all of the controversial press the governor is inclined to remove the Colonel and Mattias from the BOPE squad.

Furious that he cannot get in contact with the governor or his direct superiors he barges in on their lunch meeting.  While Nascimento is walking through the aisle all of the citizens stand up to applaud and shake his hand.  Seeing that they may have made a poor political decision, the governor warmly embrace him and instead of discharging him, Nascimento is actually promoted to the under Sec. of Defense something no other BOPE commander has ever achieved.

In his quest to clean up the system, Nascimento turns BOPE into a war machine getting his squad armored cars and even a helicopter.  His plan works, all of the dealers are run out of the slums.  What Nascimento didn’t count on is that when the drug money dried up, that meant the corrupt cops would also be cut off from their sources of income.  One corrupt official in particular realized that there is much more money in taxing the slums as a whole rather than pestering dealers alone.  So these police militias were formed to “protect” the slums when in reality they were violent tax collectors.  So the corruption fees went from $30,000 per month to $300,000 per month organized similar to the lines of the traditional Mafia.

Ironically Fraga (who thinks the Colonel is a fascist and tries to keep his own son away from his father) and Nascimento (who thinks that Fraga is a left wing politician capitalizing on human death and misery) both are right to a certain extent however, but they are also the only two who really understand what has happened; that is, the police have become far worse that the dealers because they are abusing their power under the color of state law against everyone not just users and other criminals.  Fraga, now a state legislator, wants to hold hearings but is rebuffed because it is an election year.  Nascimento has built the perfect war machine which has does its job, but can’t be turned on the police.

So what are they to do?  We will discuss that in Part II.

 

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2013 in Movie Reviews

 

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And you thought 9-11 was tough try this: Escape from New York (1981).

I was watching an episode of American Dad today which made some references to a futuristic Armageddon world and then it came to me: John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981).  This flick has it all: a great cast Kurt Russell as “Snake Plissken,” Lee Van Cleef  as “Bob Hauk,” Ernest Borgnine as “Cabbie,” Isaac Hayes as “The Duke of New York City,” and Adrienne Barbeau as “Maggie.” This quality continues as the movie has a futuristic Sci-Fi story, suspense, humans sacrificing themselves and a cult like following.  Why haven’t I looked at this one sooner?  Who the hell knows but here we go!

In the “near future” Manhattan is turned into a free for all prison.  The island is surrounded by a fifty foot wall and all bridges leading in and out are heavily mined.  Needless to say the dystopian society that has evolved inside the walls is cruel and unforgiving.  Road Warrior like gangs roam the streets looking for prey or carrion to feast on with an assortment of weapons and whatever machines they can keep running (like Ernest Borgnine’s taxi).  As prisoners are being processed before being dumped into this hell they are given the opportunity to be terminated immediately rather than face the chaos.

 

Enter Snake Plissken, a one-eyed ex-special forces soldier caught robbing the federal reserve who is about to serve the rest of his days in New York.  Alas, Air Force 1 is forced to crash.  The President survived thanks to some sort of escape pod but he is stuck in New York.  How do we know the president survives?  The Duke sends one of his fingers to the authorities to confirm it.  Snake cuts a deal with Hauk that if he can get the President out of New York within 24 hours he will get a full pardon.  Oh and by the way there is a cassette tape that contains important information on nuclear fusion that he has to get too.  By the time Plissken has reluctantly agreed, Hauk has him injected with microscopic explosives that will rupture his carotid arteries once the 24 hours are up.  Even cooler is that the explosives can only be defused during the last 15 minutes before they detonate, ensuring that Snake does not abandon his mission, or find another way to remove them.  If he returns with the President and the tape in time Hauk will save him.  As he should, Snake promises to kill Hauk when he returns.

 

Snake slips in atop the World Trade Center in a glider, and locates the escape pod.  He follows the President’s life-monitor bracelet signal to the basement of a theater, only to find it on the wrist of an old man.  Snake then runs into a friendly inmate nicknamed “Cabbie” (Ernest Borgnine), who offers to help and takes him to see Harold the “Brain” Hellman, a well-educated inmate who has made the New York Public Library his personal fortress.  It turns out that Brain and Snake are old buddies from some heists they pulled in the past.  Brain tells Snake that the self-proclaimed “Duke of New York” (Isaac Hayes), the terrifying leader of the largest and most powerful gang in Manhattan, has the President and plans to lead a mass escape across the mined and heavily guarded 69th Street Bridge by using the President as a human shield.  How much cooler can things get?  Well when the Duke unexpectedly arrives for a diagram of the bridge’s land mines, Snake forces Brain and his girlfriend Maggie (Adrienne Barbeau) to lead him back to the Duke’s place f/k/a Grand Central Station.  Snake finds the President being held in a railroad car but is not able to rescue him and he is captured by the Duke’s cronies.

Brain and Maggie trick the Duke’s men into letting them have access to the President and after killing the guards, they free the President and flee to Snake’s radical glider.  When the Duke learns the President has escaped with Brain, he loses his mind and rounds up his gang to chase them down and kill them.  Snake manages to slip away and catches up with Brain, Maggie and the President at the glider, but during their attempted getaway, a gang of inmates push the glider off the building.  Is there another way out?  Yes, Snake and the others find Cabbie, and Snake gets behind the wheel before heading for the bridge.  When Cabbie reveals that he has the nuclear fusion tape, the President demands it, but Snake takes it.

 

Being pursued by the Duke, Snake and the others drive over the mine infested bridge.  After the taxi hits a land mine, the cab is destroyed and Cabbie is dead.  As the others make a run for it Brain is killed by a mine and Maggie won’t leave him.  She wants revenge on the Duke and shoots at him with a revolver—to no avail as the Duke smashes Maggie and his car.  Snake and the President reach the containment wall and the guards raise the President up on a cable drawn from a Jeep mounted winch. Snake sees the Duke approaching and attacks him from behind but only after the Duke blows away the two guards with a machine gun Snake lost to the Duke when he was captured.  Knowing time is running out Snake nails the Duke in the head and makes his move for the cable.  Halfway up the wall, the cable stops and the President fatally shoots the Duke.  Snake is then lifted to safety, and the explosives implanted in his body are deactivated with mere seconds to spare.

After Snake gains his signed pardon from Hauk, Hauk offers Snake a job, to which Snake merely starts walking away. As Snake continues walking out of the prison parking deck area, Hauk asks Snake if he is going to kill him. Snake replies, “I’m too tired… maybe later.” Snake, still walking away, pulls the magnetic tape out of the cassette containing the information on nuclear fusion as he leaves.

 

Wow!

 

What else can I say?  Great movie.

 

Here is some comedy.  Where did they decide to shoot this movie needing gritty decaying buildings?  Where else can you find hell on earth but East St. Louis!  I always thought East St. Louis’s reputation was urban lore, but apparently I was wrong.  See http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=6&ved=0CCsQtwIwBQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DtWMFsXwpToA&ei=TFYiTv2EE4ajtgfq-rijAw&usg=AFQjCNGqe9vUGdn7wG7-W4ioFYfWfAPKMA&sig2=UoFKCPSfyE_TncCaurkPsA.

 

The movie was also a great commercial success—it had a budget of six million dollars and grossed about fifty million worldwide.  Nice work as usual Mr. Carpenter.  They sure don’t make them like this anymore.

 
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Posted by on July 16, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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King Rat—A Movie Not Based On A Lie Like The Bridge Over the River Kwai.

Recently, my claim that Black Hawk Down is the best war movie ever was challenged by a regular visitor to the site who asked if anyone would remember BHD after a number of years had passed, while pointing to The Bridge Over the River Kwai and The Great Escape as examples of “better” war movies, ones that have stood the test of time.  Obviously, we can not know how long people will remember BHD, but we can look at a movie that is head and shoulders above both The Great Escape and The Bridge Over the River Kwai and yet is not as well remembered:  It is King Rat.

King Rat (1965) stars a young George Segal who plays “Corporal King” AKA the King Rat.  King Rat is based on a 1962 novel by J.B. Clavell.  Set during World War II, Clavell’s novel describes the struggle for the survival of British, Australian, and American prisoners of war in a Japanese camp in Singapore—a description well-informed by Clavell’s own three-year experience as a POW in the notorious Changi Prison camp.  Peter Marlowe, a significant character, is based upon Clavell’s younger self.  Even some of the actors in King Rat were POWs in the World War II.  Denholm Elliott, (who played Lt. G.D. Larkin) while serving in the RAF, was shot down and taken prisoner by the Nazis.

These P.O.W.’s were given nothing by the Japanese other than filthy huts to live in and the bare minimum of food needed to prevent starvation.  Officers who had been accustomed to native servants providing them with freshly- laundered uniforms daily were reduced to wearing rags and homemade shoes.  For most, the chief concern is obtaining enough food to stay alive from day to day and avoiding disease or injury, since nearly no medical care is available.  But, not so for King, who is well fed and struts around in a uniform that looks like it came straight from the dry cleaners.

Corporal King, not a very likable character, becomes “King” of the black market/underground economy, trading with the enemy for food, cigarettes, currency, etc.  As the “richest” man in the camp, Segal becomes the most powerful prisoner, controlling even the highest ranking officers through his economic muscle and having virtually everyone on his payroll, except one, seemingly incorruptible British Provost, Lieutenant Grey (Tom Courtenay).  Grey has only contempt for the American and does his best to bring him down, but with no success.

Eventually, the camp commandant informs the prisoners that the Japanese have surrendered and that the war is over.  After overcoming their shock and disbelief, the prisoners celebrate – all except King, who realizes that he is no longer the unquestioned (if unofficial) ruler of the camp.

Unfortunately, King Rat does not appear on any popular “top” lists of movies must-sees.  In fact, the reason I watched it was because I was forced to.  In my high school economics class, Dr. Kardsky made us watch the movie as an example of how scarcity affects economic markets that are virtually unregulated.  Now, having seen the movie several more times over the years, I have only grown to appreciate it further.  So. if you are interested in a not-so-glamorous account of soldiers in the war of the century, do take a very worthwhile look at King Rat.

By the way, the Rat in the movie’s title “King Rat” is revealed at the end of the film when King feeds his fellow prisoners rat meat, for which they are grateful.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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