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END OF WATCH and DREDD reviews

Posted on November 6th, 2012
Posted on November 6th, 2012

Article by: Coop Cooper

A.K.A. The Small Town Critic

End of Watch” – Two hero cops (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) working the most dangerous beat in Los Angeles stumble upon evidence that the brutal drug cartels from south of the border are committing unprecedented atrocities within the area. With reckless disregard for their own safety, they go out of their way to seek out cartel activity, causing them to become targets. All the while they keep the stress and danger they face on a day-to-day basis a secret from their loved ones.

This engaging film acts as a horror tale for prospective police officers. It puts its characters through the worst and most dangerous situations a cop can face and they soldier through them, often with a smile and a wink. The gangsters are as evil as evil can be. Likewise the cops are super-cops and act fearlessly macho whether they face doom or not. This comes across as a bit far-fetched in a film which tries to fake realism by having the main characters document their activities with miniature cameras.

Speaking of those cameras, I realize it was designed to give the film a “found footage” feel (Gyllenhaal’s character claims to be using them as a project for a law class he is taking), but the filmmakers cheat egregiously when using them. Phantom camera angles appear where there are no cameras present. I would say less than half of the footage was filmed using the micro cameras or even the one handheld camera the characters used. “Found footage” doesn’t even apply and the filmmakers don’t try very hard to hide their switching over to third-person cameras, so this narrative device was ultimately pointless.

Besides that gripe, the film was exciting and featured excellent acting and chemistry between the two leads. Their constant banter was surprisingly natural and amusing, even if it could’ve been trimmed down by about 30 minutes. The story had similarities with “Colors” and “Training Day” and utilized the best parts of both. It’s a thrilling, frightening film that will go down as one of the great, modern cop films if audiences can forgive the phony filming gimmicks.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Dredd” – In the congested, crime-ridden super highrises of Mega City One, the solitary “judges” serve as law enforcement, judge, jury and executioner for all would-be lawbreakers. Of all the cops in this futuristic wasteland, Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) is the most feared. Dredd is given the task of reassessing a trainee, Anderson (Olivia Thirlby), who failed basic training but superiors feel her exceptional psychic abilities make her a potential asset. When the pair capture a witness who could finger the powerful drug lord, Ma-Ma (Lena Heady), she seals off her highrise fortress with the two judges inside and puts a bounty on their head. The uncompromising Dredd and his inexperienced partner must learn to trust each other as they fight through waves of villains in order to survive.

Born of British comic books in the late 1970’s, “Judge Dredd” is one of the most recognizable antihero pulp characters of the indie comics scene. Fans rejected the 1995 “Judge Dredd” film starring Sylvester Stallone for its corny tone and unnecessary comic sidekick (Rob Schneider). This completely-opposite-in-every-way reboot wipes the slate clean with a gritty mood, gory violence and jaw-dropping action scenes. It completely avoids the origin story of Dredd and dives down into the juicy meat of the original comic.

Urban nails Dredd, first by NEVER taking his helmet off, and by managing to convey subtle pathos beneath his mean, robotic demeanor. He kills a lot of bad guys but he protects his partner and the innocents with dedicated ferocity. When his partner saves his life, only then do you see the tiny cracks in his armor. Thirlby doesn’t look tough, but she soldiers up admirably when situation becomes desperate. Heady has had a lot practice lately playing the ruthless villain Cersi Lannister on “Game of Thrones.” As Ma-Ma she is not half as attractive, but is easily just as nasty.

The dark, retro style of this Dredd (3-D) film was so well-done, I felt as if I was watching 1987’s “Robocop” (a character which the “Judge Dredd” comic inspired) mixed with the recent Indonesian blockbuster action film “The Raid.” While it appears to have an identical plot to “The Raid,” “Dredd” completely stands on its own. The 3-D format was not distracting, the film was fanatically loyal to the comic and I feel it has a lot of sequel potential as long as it doesn’t get overlooked by audiences.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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