By Tim Posada, 9/27/2012
“End of Watch”
As far as Hollywood fodder goes, cop movies are as common as baristas with unpublished screenplays. “End of Watch” can’t compare to cop flicks like “Lethal Weapon”, but it adds a new level of realism to an often sensationalized genre. It’s equal parts entertaining, thought-provoking and boring –– worth the view even if it occasionally collapses on itself.
The driving storyline — the drug cartel’s hit on the hero cops of South Central — is far less important than the film’s primary function as a near-two-hour, day-in-the-life mock-reality documentary about two cops on and off the clock. First, we begin with the primary formula for any buddy cop film: two officers with very different backgrounds. Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) served in the military and comes from a disjointed Caucasian family. Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) is from a Mexican family with incredibly strong ties. Sure, Brian becomes a surrogate family member, but it is the job that makes the two true brothers.
Some of the film’s best moments aren’t crazy chase scenes or high-octane shootouts, but banter between Brian and Mike while they drive from crime to crime. In dialogue equal parts humor and sincerity, Gyllenhaal, as Brian, and Peña, as Mike, are the ideal cop combo: same wave length, unified movement under pressure and fantastic internal jokes.
I’m encouraged to see a filmmaker like David Ayer, known for cop films like “Street Kings” and “Harsh Times”, turn to the found-footage genre for inspiration. I greatly enjoy films like “Cloverfield” and any of the “Paranormal Activities” series, but it’s comforting to see how well suited the genre is for cop films, and it’s so much better than that charade of a reality show, “Cops”, that did little more than pick and choose what to show, thus reinforcing various stereotypes.
At least “End of Watch” attempts an air of authenticity even if it digresses to gangster clichés and even some rather convenient here-comes-the-cavalry moments. I’m not sure how accurate this one is in portraying the daily life of a beat cop in South Central, but it does highlight how stressful the job can be. Plus, Los Angeles City Councilman Eric Garcetti’s cameo as himself is pretty fantastic too.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone redeeming the awful 1995 film where Sly continually grunts out the one-liner, “I am the law.” Well, director Pete Travis, with a screenplay by Alex Garland (“28 Days Later”) almost eliminates that travesty with a reboot of the “Judge Dredd” comic book series. But don’t trust the 3D sales pitch; you don’t need to see limbs flying at your face. Still, “Dredd” replaces “Judge Dredd’s” campy sensibility with solid action, creative visuals and a more focused storyline.
In a dystopian future, most of the planet is uninhabitable, save a small area on the East Coast referred to as Mega-City One. With 800 million residents populating a small space, law enforcement can only respond to 6 percent of crimes daily. For such a unique catastrophe, humanity’s last haven has its own breed of police officers: judges endowed with all the power of the legal system, from incarceration to execution. A citizen’s right to a speedy trial never found such a perverse fruition.
In the midst of a corrupt city, corrupt system and occasionally corrupt judges, we find our uncompromising hero, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban). He never negotiates, he never discriminates and he never misses. He’s equal parts idealism and masculine overcompensation. Just imagine a future where the Punisher isn’t a fugitive, but a role model.
Things shake up when he mentors a new recruit, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), a mutant (oh yeah, the nuclear wasteland of the future also had a few genetic side effects on humanity) with telepathic abilities, making her a very strong candidate for becoming a judge. On Anderson’s final day as a trainee, what begins as a routine triple-homicide turns into a race to the exit of Peach Trees, a 200-level residential unit controlled by drug lord Madeline Madrigal (Lena Headey), or Ma-Ma to those she considers friends.
This is as B-movie that is as raunchy as they come, but it’s just over-the-top enough to be entertaining –– even including some truly great moments. Plus, Dredd’s gun with regular, armor-piercing and incendiary rounds is pretty fantastic. “Dredd” isn’t as terrible as most neo-exploitation films — nor as great — and it even proves rather watchable if you just sit back and suspend any semblance of aesthetic merit.