‘Criminal Code’ Review: Netflix Brazilian Series Is A Detailed Action Thriller That Demands Patience 

The Brazilian TV show Criminal Code can drive one nuts with its winding car chases and fantastically shot gun-fights, but if you’re not one to care so much for the details, this show may feel extremely overwhelming. The show does manage to include some comical moments that give a very colloquial feel to the police force that we’re following in this story. The show is divided into multiple subplots, mainly about a beat-up federal cop, namely Benício, trying to get revenge for the death of his partner, and a massive criminal organization that crosses borders and wreaks havoc. The show is a thriller that delivers an electrifying mix of intense gunfights and high-speed chase scenes. The thriller delivers a massive punch with its speedy car chases and FPS-like gunfights that often feel like a high-budget music video with Brazilian rap music in the background.

Criminal Code delivers eight episodes of nail-biting action and the deeply detailed preparation of the people on both sides of the fight. For those who appreciate knowing how things are done, this is a fantastic show, but for those of us who are a little bit lazy and require more spoon-feeding, it feels quite burdensome. While we see most of the series play out from the point of view of Benício, each character is well-developed, with many favorites to choose from. Specifically, it’s his partner Suellen, played by Maeve Jinkings, who hits it out of the park with her performance. Not only is her character a welcome change amidst all the testosterone, but you really want to see her succeed (especially in comparison to her more “frivolous” partner). The chemistry between the two partners is palpable and feels extremely real. The tension is palpable, and the stakes are high, creating an immersive experience that leaves audiences craving more. What sets Criminal Code apart is the fantastic integration of the action amidst the detailed investigation. Additionally, the show dives into minuscule details like we’ve never seen before. On the other hand, we have the criminals, who are also divided into multiple organizations, and initially, it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, but slowly everything comes into the picture.

No, really, there’s a LOT going on, and if you don’t pay attention, you may not realize who is on what side. Character Soulless is, of course, the highlight of the bad guys, and his deep voice and stoic expression make for a formidable villain. Every episode has at least one grueling and adrenaline-fueled action sequence that keeps you hooked. From videogame-like hand-held camerawork to high-speed car chases in the beautiful South American countryside, this show has a lot of great things to offer. Credit must be given to the stunning landscape that we get to see too. The show begins a little bit slow, not in terms of action, but in terms of understanding the criminal minds and officers. The true “fun” begins somewhere midway through the series. The second half of the show is much more focused than the first half, which feels a little bit chaotic.

Just a little while ago, the Korean drama Worst of Evil was one of those fantastic thrillers that kept us on our toes throughout. Criminal Code is similarly exciting and twisted. At the same time, the series has a lot in common with shows like the Spanish series Money Heist or the more recent German language show Sleeping Dog. Now, all of this sounds fantastic, but also this is one of those times Netflix should’ve dropped this show an episode at a time. There’s a lot going on, and this is definitely not a bingeable show. Hour-long elaborate episodes with more than one sub-plot to pay attention to—this is like looking at an encyclopedia of DNA testing in the Brazilian federal system.

The bad guys are notorious, and the cops are highly entertaining. Although I find that the series is well put together and isn’t one of those basic Netflix cash crops, it’s not quite as entertaining as it hopes to be. There are a lot of positive takeaways, but the immersive feeling wears off after an hour and 30 minutes of mind-warping crime hunting. Additionally, being an international series doesn’t help with the confusion.

Ultimately, this is still a police procedural, which does have a predictable quality to it. Now, if you don’t pay attention to the details, you’ll still figure out what’s happened in the end (thankfully), but it leaves a dry feeling at the end of the day. Maybe, if it’s watched slowly, this quality gets washed away. There is a larger-than-life kind of ambition to this show, which is clearly visible, but sometimes you’ve got to work smart rather than hard. The stakes are definitely very high for this series, and we’re definitely paying attention to the Brazilian police procedurals that are coming our way.

Even with all of the wonderful things I have said about Criminal Code, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone because, to me, it’s quite dull. Even with all its finery (this is ant-sized detailing), the show ends up being lifeless. Maybe I’m too much of a softie, but without heart, there’s no way we can connect to such characters, even if they’re putting their lives at risk every step of the way. Additionally, some things come across as if they’ve been added just for the sake of making this a more upbeat show, like party scenes and unnecessary sex, which really drag it out further. I’d give this show 2.5 out of 5 for effort. The show has a lot of profanity, sexual content, and grizzly violence.

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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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Even with all of the wonderful things I have said about Criminal Code, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone because, to me, it’s quite dull. 'Criminal Code' Review: Netflix Brazilian Series Is A Detailed Action Thriller That Demands Patience