This week's movies: gurus, beauty queens, beat cops, and 3D super cops
Also at the multiplex, you can take in a pair of cop movies; feel free to base your ticket-booth decision on whether you prefer your violence cartoonish or gritty. The former comes courtesy of Dredd 3D, a pretty enjoyable comic-book adaptation thanks to star Karl Urban's deadpan zingers. This is not a remake of the 1995 Sly Stallone flop Judge Dredd, by the way, though it might as well be a remake of 2011 Indonesian import The Raid: Redemption. The stories are identical. Like, lawsuit material-identical: super cop infiltrates (and then becomes trapped in, and must battle his way out of) a high-rise apartment tower run by a ruthless crime boss. Key difference is that Dredd has futuristic weapons, and The Raid had badass martial arts. (Also Dredd's villain is played by Lena "Cersei Lannister" Headey, so there's that.)
Buddy cop movies tend to go one of two ways: the action-comedy route (see: the Rush Hour series) or the action-drama route, like End of Watch, which follows partners Taylor (a chrome-domed Jake Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Michael Peña from 2004's Crash) as they patrol the mean streets of Los Angeles, engaging in witty shit-talk and uncovering gruesome crime scenes. Writer-director David Ayer, who wrote 2001's Training Day, aims for authenticity by piecing together much of (but, incongruously, not all of) the story through dashboard cameras, surveillance footage, and Officer Taylor's own ever-present camera, which he claims to be carrying for a school project, though we never once see him attending classes or mentioning school otherwise.
Gyllenhaal and Peña have an appealing rapport, but End of Watch stretches credulity at times, with the duo stumbling across the same group of gangsters multiple times in a city of three million people. Ultimately, End of Watch is way too familiar (but not lawsuit-material familiar) to leave any lasting impression. Case in point: in the year 2012, do we really need yet another love scene set to Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You"? *
3rd I's San Francisco International South Asian Film Festival runs Sept. 19-30; tickets and schedule at thirdi.org/festival. The Master, Dredd 3D, and End of Watch open Fri/21 in Bay Area theaters.