Reel Critics: 'Watch' is tension-filled drama

David Ayers wrote and directed "End of Watch." He also wrote the gritty cop drama "Training Day," which earned Denzel Washington an Oscar for best actor. This new film careens across the screen with all the non-stop action you expect from a serious film about police operations in South Central Los Angeles.

The incredible performances by co-stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña both seem worthy of Oscar nominations. They play intense cop buddies who bring authentic life to their work patrolling mean streets. Ayers uses a near documentary style with lots of hand-held camera work. He accurately portrays the intense events that make up the daily lives of the central characters.

But Ayers adds a welcome dose of great adult humor to offset the graphic reality on the screen. The fast-paced scenes are all heart-pounding and the plot unfolds with ever-increasing tension. This may be the "Saving Private Ryan" of cop movies. Compelling but gruesome, you may feel you have a ringside seat to watch the ugly dark side of our current urban battles.


There will be boredom

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson is an idiosyncratic filmmaker. From "Boogie Nights" to "There Will be Blood," his movies are unique. They're intense and enigmatic, and he always gets strong performances from his actors.

So, after viewing the highly touted "The Master," the first thought that came to mind was, "The Emperor has no clothes." This post-World War II story of a broken alcoholic (Joaquin Phoenix) who meets the mysterious leader of a self-realization movement is challenging at best.

As "The Master," Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives an intriguing performance. He exudes confidence, calm and prosperity — on the surface — and assures Freddie Quell (Phoenix) that he can help the troubled man find inner peace.

Some may say that Phoenix is brilliant here, but the tortured, twisted physicality is a distraction. His Freddie is a frightened, frightening animal and it's difficult to see why The Master and his group tolerate having him around.

Amy Adams is excellent as the ever-smiling wife of The Master. Hands folded demurely in her lap, she is a force stronger than her husband.

Beautiful photography and music throughout this movie are soothing counterpoints to the perplexing, frustrating chaos that is "The Master" itself. As an art form, it may be a great film but as a story, it feels pointless and self-indulgent.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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