Sometimes trouble wears a badge.
Here we are with another Nu Image cop movie. I was kind of expecting another One Man Force after reading the back of the DVD cover - "a tough cop who packs a wallop in this no-holds-barred police thriller" - but what I got was very different. That's not to say it was bad - Dog Watch is quite a decent watch - but it's certainly not Explosive Action. In hindsight though, I should have realised what this was by the use of the word "thriller" - the marketing term for "slow and methodical" and anything but Explosive Action. There's still enough cop-shoot-drug-runners and roughing up snitches to keep the pure action fan interested for the most part.
Sam Elliot plays Charlie Falon an aging, drunken, racist and sexist cop who has seen a lot in his time and that makes him cynical and angry. The last time I saw Sam Elliot he was also playing a rough cop in my first review of Shakedown with Peter Weller. He's far more rough in Dog Watch than he was in that movie and unlike Shakedown there aren't many laughs to be had here. After a night drinking with his partner at a strip club (of course), Falon readies himself to go home. When he goes to find where his partner has gone to in the back alley he finds him dead on the ground being, what he presumes, attacked by another man. In a drunken rage, Falon beats the man to death and dumps the body in the river.
A lot of Dog Watch is classic good cop/bad cop police procedural. Once paired with his new partner Murrow (Esai Morales) the two are assigned to the case of finding out who dumped the body in the river. As the movie progresses, Murrow becomes more and more suspicious of Falon. At the same time Falon investigates who the guy he killed was and why he had killed his partner. What Falon discovers is that the man was an undercover cop and didn't kill his partner at all. Not only that, but the corruption in his precinct is what actually lead to the death of his former partner.
There was a definite noir tone to this film. The moody saxophone music rarely let up, the city was always in darkness and some shots, like the final monologue delivered by Esai Morales to the camera which then pans on a longshot to the cityscape, belong in a crime movie from the 40's. It was an interesting way to construct the film and once I had gotten over the fact that I wasn't going to get any exploding cars it was all the more intriguing. I genuinely wanted to see how the ending would play out.
Esai Morales was pretty good as the new partner cop. He was less wet behind the ears than most "...and here's your new partner, Detective Jimmy", "Boss I don't want a new partner!" relationships. Because of the lack of humour in Dog Watch, the straight-laced performance gave him more credibility and wasn't the butt of Falon's jokes. We are also introduced to his fiance whom Falon is rude to over the dinner table. The Captain, traditionally the hard-arse of the police procedural, is the only one that provides any humour to the proceedings. He's overly large, forgetful and shouty, often going on rambling tangents about food and such. Also look out for Dan Lauria (the dad from The Wonder Years) as a detective working the same case as Falon and Murrow who may not be all he seems.
I didn't really like how the producers had to emphasise Falon's racism in the early moments of the movie ("One day you'll come home and find a Jap in your house telling you to get out!") but I guess it adds to the duality of the character. On one hand he is caring and has a lot of love for his former parter; so much so that he lashes out in the lockers and showers in a fit of rage. On the other hand he thinks women should stay in the kitchen and that presenting take-away food to a guest is an insult. Overall it makes it kind of hard to like the character, but perhaps that was the intention.
Solid, full screen picture. Sound is a little quiet at times but nothing that isn't solvable with a little extra volume. Runtime 95 minutes.
Ninth Dimension R4 disc for $2 online. It's deleted so you may need to hunt around a bit.
WARNING: This is quite a spoiler-filled trailer!