Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Video review: "End of Watch"

File “End of Watch” under the list of best movies of 2012 that you probably haven’t seen … or maybe even heard of.

This terrific, gritty, and surprisingly funny portrait of a pair of LAPD officers patrolling South-Central Los Angeles is one of the best cop dramas in recent memory. Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal play Mike and Brian, a pair of young cowboys who, as one boasts “get into more capers in a single deployment shift than most cops do in their entire career.”

Writer/director David Ayer fills his movie with lots of harrowing scenes of fistfights, gunplay and other brutality. Yet it’s the humanity of the relationship between these two guys that breathes life into the film. They crack jokes on each other, make fun of their ethnic heritage, and exchange advice about the women in their lives.

But when the gangbangers bring the heat, they instantly shift into soldier mode, becoming one mind with two guns. Ayer often films from a first-person perspective down the barrel of a pistol, putting the audience right in the thick of it.

America Ferrera, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, David Harbour and Frank Grillo make up an outstanding supporting cast as the fellow cops and family members who have to deal with the carnage left behind in the destructive duo’s wake.

The humor may strike some viewers as out of place, but the cast and crew show how it’s just part of their defense mechanism the cops use to keep from going crazy. Some of the scenes they encounter are just horrendous and traumatizing. Cutting up is how they get by.

But don’t mistake all the laughing for a lack of sobriety. “End of Watch” is a serious examination of life on the thin blue line in one of the toughest beats in America. Especially revealing is a scene after the pair have been given awards for pulling kids out of a fire, and Brian asks Mike, “Do you feel like a hero?” The answer may surprise you.

Don’t miss this one.

Extra features, which are identical for Blu-ray and DVD editions, are a bit underwhelming. Director Ayer provides a feature-length commentary. Plus there are several deleted scenes, and a handful of rather short making-of featurettes.

Movie: 3.5 stars out of four
Extras: 2.5 stars

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