The Portuguese Netflix crime show ‘Criminal Code’ takes the viewers on a deep dive into Brazil’s criminal world and its various fields of operations. Following a bank robbery of great magnitude, the show revolves around the ensuing investigation conducted by Detectives Romulo Braga and his partner, Suellen. As the duo delve into their newest, most pressing assignment with forensics at the forefront, they unravel different facets of the country’s criminality.
Originally titled ‘DNA do Crime,’ this show brings an equal parts thrilling and realistic approach to Brazilian crime dramas through an entertaining unwinding of the protagonists’ personal and professional endeavors. However, the latter, involving large-scale heists, interconnected criminal webs, and police investigations, naturally fosters interest in their possible connection to real-life crime.
Criminal Code’s True Story is Based on the 2017 Ciudad del Este Robbery
‘Criminal Code’ is partially based on a true story. The show takes heavy inspiration from the Ciudad del Este Robbery that occurred in 2017 in Paraguay, with the narrative equipping real-life instances to build a fictitious storyline. Consequently, the story that we see unfold on-screen remains ripe with fictional details, characters, and events while continuing to have a clear origin in true crime.
On April 24, 2017, robbers armed with weapons and explosives carried out a heist on Prosegur, a private security company, and stole around $11.7 million. The criminals reportedly blew up the building’s front with explosives, engaged in an altercation with the police using firearms, and took several hostages. “This type of crime is not for amateurs,” Fabiano Bordignón, the local Federal Police Delegate, said on record while commenting on the case.
DNA forensics helmed the following investigation, collecting 457 pieces of evidence and 580 samples, marking it as the forensic DNA laboratory’s largest case. The results harvested from this process provided a link between the Ciudad del Este Robbery and various crimes from different Brazilian areas. Ultimately, the authorities involved in the investigation uncovered a large criminal organization at the center of the heist.
The case, often dubbed the “Robbery of the Century,” remains the biggest robbery that ever took place in Brazil to date and was recognized as the 2020 DNA Hit of the Year. Furthermore, the case also bestowed international recognition upon the utilization of DNA evidence in investigations and championed the competency of forensic genetics in crimes of similar nature.
As such, the case presented the perfect source of inspiration for Heitor Dhalia and his co-creators Bernardo Barcellos and Leonardo Levis, who wanted to create an authentic show that delved into police and crime structures. Dhalia, in particular, who carved out a place for himself in the crime drama genre with his 2020 series, ‘Arcanjo Renegado,’ employed many resources to bring realism to the show.
Dhalia worked with a number of consultants with different areas of expertise to weave authenticity into this story. From federal and civil police officers and tactical force chiefs to former bank robbers, the director mined inspiration from every aspect of real life that he could. Likewise, actor Thomás Aquino also did his research and spoke with several individuals who had a history with the prison system to prepare for his involvement in the show.
Thus, we can garner that the ‘Criminal Code’ creators were committed to maintaining authenticity for the criminal characteristics that the narrative explores. Yet, they also didn’t shy away from applying fictionality in service of the storyline. Since the show only takes partial inspiration from the real-life Ciudad del Este Robbery, it affords its plot points and characters plenty of fabrication.
Even though the crime provided a thrilling narrative on its own, ‘Criminal Code’ builds upon it through fictional details and adds a realistic sentimentality to its characters by masterfully crafting their fictitious personas. In that regard, it’s crucial to remember that although the show is based on a real-life crime, it doesn’t always showcase every aspect of the event with faithful accuracy. Ultimately, ‘Criminal Code’ presents a blend of fact and fiction while ensuring an entertaining watch.
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