Road Films…

I work for FedEx. Love my job. I support systems that help sort packages all across the country. As a result my job may involve some travelling — like this past weekend. I had to take a trip to our Data Center in Colorado Springs to install some tech. While I enjoy flying, entertainment options tend to be limited. Reading works, but often as not I end up sitting next to someone who sees a book as an invitation to talk about everything except what I’m reading.

However, people will leave a person alone if they’ve got earbuds on while watching something on an iPad. With that, movies have become my choice of inflight entertainment. For this trip I picked two films: End of Watch and Dredd. Here’s a brief review of each.

End of Watch

This film stars Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal as two LA patrolmen who get in over their heads when they run afoul of a Mexican drug cartel. This could have been a very strong movie — Gyllenhaal and Pena put on a strong performance, as does the rest of the cast. The filming and action are crisp. The actors’ portrayal of police officers comes across as well-researched. One scene, where they bust the cartel agent with the blingout guns, Gyllenhaal makes a few simple gestures that convinced me that both actors and film makers did their homework. However, the film falls short for two reasons.

The first is pacing. The movie takes a long time to establish the plot, even as it tries to follow the three act formula. I think the reason for this stems from the second failing: the movie isn’t sure what it wants to be. It starts off as a homemade documentary, but the film makes too many POV hops to maintain that. It could have been an action cop movie (how else would you account for three guys getting a drop on two cops from an advantageous point while armed with AK-47s roll a complete miss with nearly a hundred rounds?), or it could have been a gritty police procedural. Instead, the film lost its sense of self while trying to tell a story. It reduces what could have been a great movie to “meh,” which is a shame, because the interaction between Pena and Gyllenhaal is fantastic.

Dredd

In Mega-City One, the Judges are the sole force of order. Dredd takes the psychic rookie Judge Anderson into the field for her evaluation, but things get out of control quickly as the two run afoul of the drug lord MaMa in her hi-rise fortress.

I had a feeling this was going to be good, and I’m kicking myself for not having seen this in theaters. As adaptation of the comic goes, it’s  light years ahead of the Stallone flick. Urban does a great job of being Dredd without being a hulked up linebacker without having to take off his helmet. However it’s Judge Andersen (Olivia Thirlby) and MaMa (Lena Headey) steal the show. Both are great characters who just happen to be women. I had heard it said, and in this case it holds very true.  Andersen’s psychic abilities are well used and the film handles them without being cliche, and she is no slouch nor damsel in distress — even when she gets captured by the bad guys.  MaMa is monstrously evil, and not for evil’s own sake. She grew into a monster, knowing full well the consequences of her actions.

With the location set mostly in a massive high-rise builing, one might draw some parallels to Die-Hard. It’s not quite inaccurate, but it doesn’t do the story justice either (no pun intended). It’s a straight up guns blazing action film that knows it’s source material. It does just enough to set the scene for MegaCity One without bogging things down in exposition. I’m kicking myself for not seeing this in the theater, and I hope they make another.

Don’t know when my next business trip will be, but I’ll definitely be doing this again. Until then, there’s still Supernatural to watch.

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