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Failing at Action Feminism – Operações Especiais – Movie Review

Original Title: Operações Especiais

Year: 2015

Country: Brazil 

Language: Portuguese. 

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Rating: 2.5/7 Samurai 

I went to Brazil three times between 2011-2013, and I loved it every time. Whenever I would get talking to the people there and ask for recommendations of Brazilian movies I should watch it was sometimes the brilliant City of God–which I saw when it came out in 2002–or even more often it was 2007’s Tropa de Elite. This was one I had never heard of but so many people recommended that as soon as I got back to the US, I found it with English subtitles, watched it and loved it. The story of cops fighting against both crime and corruption was full of drama and action and told beautifully.

 It was my fond memories of Tropa de Elite that lead me to watch 2015’s Operações Especiais when I saw it available on Netflix, its description of a group of cops that root out corruption in a small town, was similar enough, I had high hopes. Those hopes were quickly dashed. Operações Especiais is not anywhere near as good as Tropa de Elite, but instead, a movie that so is obviously trying to ape it and failing miserably. 

Yes, there is still a small group of mostly honest cops who are trying to fight corruption, but that’s about where the similarities end. The main difference here is that the lead is played by a woman, which should have made the movie more interesting but instead just kind of made me think that men who made the movie are misogynists who wanted to show a woman constantly failing. 

The woman in question is Francis, who at the beginning is working behind the desk at a hotel. After a robbery occurs at her hotel, a coworker offhandedly comments that anyone with a college degree can be a cop. Francis takes her hospitality degree and applies to become a cop. She does well enough in the academy that she is chosen to be the only female to join a squad of cops going from Rio de Janeiro to a small town outside of the city and root out the gangs and corrupt officials that have taken it over. So far it seems like we’re being set up to see a movie about a kickass female cop, who can handle things on her own. We’re not. 

  For the first 90% of the movie every time Francis is faced with any kind of adversity she needs to be saved by one of her male counterparts, and it isn’t until almost the final scene that she somehow becomes a superhero and saves the day. I think they thought they were making some sort of feminist statement by showing this woman killing all the bad guys, but it would have been much more impactful if we had actually seen how she got there instead of a miraculous change. 

There’s really not much else to talk about with this movie. The acting is adequate, but nothing to write home about. It really just serves to paint Brazil as a corrupt and male chauvinist culture, that I know from experience it is not. Don’t watch it. Watch Tropa de Elite instead. I’m going to go do that, stay tuned for that review. 

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