Friday, July 11, 2014

An old buddy-cop conceit with new thrills

February 17. 2013 2:13AM
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You've seen the buddy-cop movie a million times, especially the mismatched buddy-cop movie. Having the police officers come from different racial backgrounds is an especially tried-and-true element of this genre.

You've also seen the found-footage movie a million times, beginning with the "Blair Witch Project" in 1999. A character carries a camera around everywhere, documenting everything, or maybe a camera just happens to be rolling, and it captures strange goings-on. It's a conceit that reflects the narcissism of the iPhone generation.

All this brings us to "End of Watch," which combines these two approaches: It's a racially mismatched buddy-cop movie in which the cops record their daily activities while on patrol, from mercilessly teasing each other in the squad car between calls to tracking bad guys through the dangerous streets and alleyways of South Central Los Angeles.

But admittedly, the found-footage aesthetic infuses the film with intimacy and vibrancy; it creates the illusion that what we're watching is unscripted, and so we feel like we don't know what's going to happen next. And co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena have such tremendous chemistry, they make you want to ride alongside them all day. As they insistently goof on each other, their banter reveals not just a believable brotherly bond but the kind of gallows humor necessary to make the horrors of their profession tolerable.

"End of Watch" follows Brian and Mike through a series of calls, each of which results in a success for this intrepid young team. They begin receiving acclaim within their department, but they also attract the attention of a power-hungry Mexican street gang.

From the brutal daily violence to the dramatic finale, the film is thrilling and uncompromising.

If you go

What: "End of Watch"

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena

Directed by: David Ayer

Running time: 108 minutes

Rated: R for strong violence, disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references and drug use

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