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End of Watch (Blu-ray Review)

18 Jan, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Street 1/22/13
Box Office $40.98 million
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references, and some drug use.
Stars Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna
Kendrick, America Ferrera, Cody Horn, Natalie Martinez, Frank Grillo.

Patrolling the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles is a far cry from the relatively innocent days depicted in “Adam 12” and “Dragnet.” Captivating cop drama End of Watch rips the scab off a nasty turf war between warring black and Latino drug gangs — showcasing two L.A. police officers who deal with more violence, mayhem and inhumanity in one shift than most cops see in a career.

It takes a special personality to survive. Officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and longtime partner Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) have that in spades as evidenced from POV video Taylor shoots from a chest-strapped HD video camera (for a class project) while the two are on patrol chasing speeding vehicles, rescuing children from a burning house or bitch-slapping a drug-addled father who’s hog-tied his kids in a closet.

It’s a gritty job — filmed almost reality TV style — that requires nonstop profanity-laced Spanglish and endearing wit to vent the stress. The in-your-face bravado Taylor and Zavala share (from writer-director David Ayer, who penned Oscar-winning Training Day) underscores a genuine empathy for the residents of South Central — many of whom are innocents caught up in the crossfire of endless violence and despair.

For example, when the two pay a visit to a black gang leader on probation, Zavala confronts the leader’s endless putdowns with a bare knuckled fistfight — immediately gaining the leader’s respect.

When Taylor’s inquisitive mind (and camera) goes into overdrive following the arrest and confiscation of drugs and cash in a human trafficking operation, the two unknowingly become targets of a Mexican cartel.

End of Watch is an equal-opportunity sensory smash-up with soul, showcasing society’s good, bad and despicable — notably cartel killers Demon (Richard Cabral), Wicked (Diamonique) and Big Evil (Maurice Compte), whose seeming record-setting use of the F-word is matched only by a cacophony of macho rap.

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