Like Jonah, I caught up with The Master over the weekend, and will simply observe that it’s the kind of movie you’re glad they made and you’re glad you saw but probably won’t ever see again — but maybe you will, just to figure out what the hell it’s about. It’s a kind of interior version of Paul Thomas Anderson’s earlier film, There Will Be Blood, with Joaquin Phoenix in the Daniel Day-Lewis role, a story of two men (the titular character is played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) locked in a sado-masochistic relationship and condemned to repeat the same scene over and over again, on land and at sea, imprisoned in a Sartreian room with no exit and living out Santayana’s famous dictum. And, no, I have no idea why all the women are suddenly naked in that party scene.
But now that I’ve got your attention, might I suggest End of Watch, the brilliant new LAPD cop movie written and directed by David Ayer, who penned Training Day back in 2001. The picture has already come in for ideological criticism from the usual drive-by suspects (does the Times have to politicize everything, even a movie review?), mostly because it paints the two beat cops, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, as heroes.
Like The Master, it’s a male-buddy movie, but of a completely different sort. Where the Master and his deeply disturbed disciple are constantly at each other’s throats, cops Brian Taylor and Miguel Zavala are thin blue line brothers from another mother, fiercely protective even when they’re busting each other’s humps. You probably won’t see a more realistic onscreen portrayal of two guys in a black-and-white, one Anglo, one Latino, and Ayer’s gift for naturalistic dialogue has never been on better display. Unlike The Master’s spinning top of a story, which finally wobbles to a kind of end (or is it just the beginning?) in a London bed sit, End of Watch reaches its brutal conclusion on the streets of el barrio, the only place it could end — in blood.