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Elite Squad (2007) by Jose Padilha Essay (Movie Review)

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Updated: Jun 13th, 2022

Directed by Jose Padilha in 2007, the movie Elite Squad is a chef-d’oeuvre piece of art, which highlights crime around Rio de Janeiro. It also underscores the role of the Special Operations Squad, also known as BOPE, in combating and abetting criminal activities. This paper analyses the movie Elite Squad from the perspective of criminology and criminal justice.

According to Pratt, Gau, and Franklin, “Criminology and Criminal Justice is an academic discipline that focuses on the causes, consequences, prevention, and control of criminal activity” (79). In the movie, the main cause of criminal activities is corruption and drug trafficking. As the movie opens, the narrator gives a synopsis underscoring how criminals, especially drug dealers, and the police join forces to perpetrate crime. The senior police officers run complex and widespread cartels through which they collect bribes from perpetrators of all sorts of crimes. High-profile drug lords meet with police officers to share what has been collected via trafficking drugs.

However, some police officers, especially new recruits, are honest and their sole motive is to serve the country. Unfortunately, these novices shortly become corrupt under the influence of their seniors. Such is the case of Neto and Matias when they become police officers with the BOPE. Their aim is to ensure a crime-free Rio de Janeiro, but they are sadly mistaken. They soon become corrupt because their seniors are corrupt and given that they are juniors, becoming honest and perhaps exposing their seniors would herald their dismissal from the service.

When Neto leaves the mechanic department on a transfer to a different area, he thinks that he has escaped the corruption ring and perhaps he will have the opportunity to serve honestly. Unfortunately, his first ride with senior officers in that department exposes the rot within the service. He realizes that innocent citizens pay the police for protection from the widespread crime in the area. This aspect of corruption is appalling given that the police offers’ primary duty is to keep law and order. They break the very laws that they are supposed to be enforcing. Another deep-running corruption is the transfer of dead bodies from one’s jurisdiction to another in a bid to cover up criminal activities, which are used to rate one’s achievements in the force. Senior police officers order the collection and transfer of people killed in their areas of jurisdiction to other places as a cover-up as Matias finds out. The other cause of crime in the area is the widespread trafficking and use of drugs in the area. The majority of murders in the movie involve drug dealing. As the movie opens, Neto mistakenly shoots a drug baron, whilst talking to a police officer on his ‘duty’ to collect a bribe. In another scene, Neto steals all the day’s bribe collections from his fellow officer. Therefore, the major causes of criminal activities in the movie are corruption and drug use and trafficking.

The consequences of criminal activities in the movie are dire. Loss of lives through murders is commonplace throughout the movie. The deaths involve drug barons, police officers, innocent people, and police informants. In addition to unwarranted deaths, the enabling criminal environment allows the formation of criminal gangs in society. For instance, Baiano has formed a gang called “Red Army”, which he uses for the protection and distribution of Marijuana. The issue of drug abuse has infiltrated schools around Rio, as Baiano’s largest client pool is university students. Therefore, crime has broken the social and moral fiber of a society by breaking the law and disrupting order that should be defining cohesion of society.

In a bid to prevent and control criminal activities, the authorities have employed and deployed enough police officers. Unfortunately, the majority, if not all, of these officers are corrupt and they abet a crime. The police officers go through rigorous training for effective combating of criminal activities. The training program is in two phases with the first one being endurance training. This phase is so rigorous that Fabio quits after his spirit breaks down. In the second phase, the recruits are trained on how to combat crime via all available methods. Therefore, the government has played its part in recruiting and deploying competent police officers. However, the government is failing largely on policy implementation and especially in the management of the police force. In a bid to combat crime, the police officers use torture and intimidation. For instance, Matias tortures Baiano’s girlfriend in a bid to disclose Baiano’s hideout. Therefore, even though the government has played its part in employing enough officers via a competent process, it needs to step up its policy implementation procedures, eliminate corruption, and instill discipline in the police force.

From the position of criminology and criminal justice, the movie Elite Squad highlights pertinent issues concerning criminal activities around the world. Corruption is one of the greatest causes of crime in society. The consequences of crime are dire and people end up losing their lives under otherwise avoidable situations. Governments around the world spend huge resources in the recruitment of competent police officers, but the management of the police force is poor, which allows the thriving of corrupt and rogue police operatives.

Works Cited

Pratt, Travis, Jacinta Gau, and Travis Franklin. Key Ideas in Criminology and Criminal Justice, Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2011. Print.

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