September 28, 2012 -- Most cop buddy films, like “Tango and Cash” or “Hollywood Homicide” are mainly action films without a whole lot of interplay between the two cops. This film is different, with more emphasis on the multicultural relationship between a Hispanic cop and his Caucasian partner. While they are culturally miles apart, they become brothers in blue.
This movie is primarily about the brotherhood of police officers and how they look out for their own, and how special bonds are formed between partners who ride together in patrol cars in dangerous neighborhoods in South Central Los Angeles. Officer Brian Taylor (played by Jake Gyllenhaal of “Source Code”) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña of “The Lincoln Lawyer”) are the movie's main characters. They come from very different backgrounds. Taylor is the kind of guy who goes to museums and legitimate theater, while Zavala is more the beer and TV guy. Taylor is looking for a girl he can talk to about things that interest him. Zavala married his high school sweetheart. Taylor likes the danger and challenge of police work, while Zavala is in it for the money.
While Taylor likes to take some chances, Zavala is more cautious. Zavala's wife, Gabby (Natalie Martinez of “Death Race”) is very upset when he takes chances. Zavala is content to do routine police work, the less dangerous, the better. He wants to live long enough to collect his pension. Taylor, not content to ride in a patrol car much longer, wants to become a detective, which leads him to take more chances. Doing some investigating on his own, he talks Zavala into checking out a house which he thinks is tied to drug dealers. They find illegal immigrants in the house connected to a kind of slave trade. They are warned to keep a low profile by a federal agent who tells them the cartels they are investigating are very dangerous.
On a routine welfare check on an elderly woman, however, they once again come to the attention of a powerful Mexican drug cartel when they find dead bodies and a large stash of drugs in the house. Once again, a member of a street gang warns Taylor and Zavala that they have been targeted for death, but they pay little attention, until it is too late.
During their years together, Taylor and Zavala become involved in each other's lives. After Zavala and his wife have their first baby, Taylor is married to Janet (Anna Kendrick of “Up in the Air”). At the wedding reception Taylor and his wife are formally welcomed into the police brotherhood in a moving ceremony. The blue line against chaos may be thin, but it is long. The roots of the brotherhood grow deep. Zavala pledges that if Taylor dies, he will take care of his family.
The movie was originally conceived as a “found footage” story, like “The Blair Witch Project” and others. Much of the movie is shot with hand-held cameras in the manner of a found footage film. Trying to combine a conventional Hollywood movie with a found-footage movie is a problem which is not solved in this film. What you end up with is a lot of amateurish-looking video combined with a more conventional story. It comes out looking like a documentary film that has been faked. The last scene of the film, which is out of sequence with the timeline of the rest of the film, would have worked in a strict found footage film, but just seems out of place in this film. I liked the performances in this film, but the found footage elements didn't work for me. This film rates a C+. See it for the story and the performances, while trying to keep from getting dizzy watching all those jerky, wavering camera shots.
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