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Just when you thought it was safe to go back onto the streets of Los Angeles...

Blu-ray Review: End of Watch (2012)

Some filmmakers just seem to have a certain knack for cranking out flicks belonging to specific subgenres. George A. Romero will always be the zombie movie guy for the general public. Edward D. Wood, Jr. couldn’t make anything but amusingly-enjoyable crap, while Michael Bay just makes crap — period. Meanwhile, in the non-horror contemporary side of motion picture manufacturing, writer/director David Ayer — who beget his career writing the script for U-571 before graduating to penning 2001’s acclaimed Training Day — has landed that one style of storytelling he very well could remain constructing until the day he dies: gritty crime dramas — as told from the point of view from the good guys.

Granted, said “good guys” are sometimes even more nefarious than the men and women they are in the pursuit of taking down. In the case of End of Watch, the heroes are slightly more heroic. A bit douchy, yes — but heroic nonetheless. And, while this Ayer urban drama tale utilizes the much-overused shaky-cam method of storying, there is simply no denying that End of Watch is still capable of grabbing most viewers by the throat and forcing them into the trunk of the squad car (amongst all the stale donut crumbs and missing evidence) and taking them for quite a ride indeed.

Set in South Central Los Angeles — a place that will surely never have quite the same amount of tourism it may have once had back when Zorro was said to have roamed the land thanks to movies like this one — End of Watch follows the plight of two up-and-coming rookie cops: Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Michael Peña), the former of whom records everything that happens in his career via a digital camera. And he manages to capture quite a bit on his memory card, too: from their sordid and steamy personal lives, to routine stops that turn into bloody shootouts, and onto the rescuing of innocent lives from raging house fires and even some weird goings-on with smuggled people.

Sadly, it is the latter discovery that lands our boys in blue in a lot of hot water with a clandestine group of international (but mostly Mexican) villains — who in-turn mark Taylor and Zavala for death. Switching from the usual Gyllenhaal-cam to other “realistic” points of view (read: shaky) as we cut to various other parties in order to make sure the audience knows that there is, in fact, a plot here (though it might take a bit for that one to settle in), Ayer manages to deliver a powerful movie about the harrowing ordeals and life-threatening situations the men and women who have sworn to protect the streets of LA often encounter. Well, in the movies, that is: in real life, we usually only ever see video footage of the cops beatin’ up a motorist!

OK, I’m done with the bad LA cop jokes now, people. Seriously, End of Watch is an enthralling film with some pretty sincere performances by its stars. And Universal Studios Home Entertainment gives us a nearly-flawless 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC presentation of this soon-to-be crime classic on Blu-ray that absolutely brings out the best the lifelike (read: shaky) digital photography. Colors are solid (though sometimes muted, accordingly, to convey the inner gloominess of being a police officer) and detail is extremely fine. Even the scenes that were shot in the dark with low-level night vision cameras still come out looking pretty darn good here. The disc’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack is even better: packing every punch (or should I say “shot”?) with wall-shaking enthusiasm. English (SDH), Spanish and French subtitles are also included.

Special features for this runaway hit at the box office (which was made for a mere seven-million, and grossed over $51m domestically) include an audio commentary with David Ayer himself, who offers up a scene-by-scene dissection of his latest masterpiece. 47-minutes of deleted scenes are also on-hand here, as are several short EPK featurettes. The copy I received contained not only a Blu-ray and DVD, but also download codes for Digital and UltraViolet copies (and some other BD-Live stuff I’ll never have a use for or figure out why the purpose of).

Highly recommended — though I might suggest you pick up some Dramamine first (did I mention there’s a lot of shaky-cam footage in this one?).

About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the alter-ego of a feller who loves an eclectic variety of classic (and sometimes not-so-classic) film and television. He currently lives in Northern California with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.

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