‘End of Watch’ Review


Film Pulse Score

'End of Watch' Review 2
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Release Date: September 21, 2012
Director: David Ayer
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 6.5/10

The “found footage” conceit is nothing new. Neither is the ‘buddy cop’ dynamic.  Putting them together, however, is an interesting idea that director David Ayer (Training Day) attempts to explore in his new LAPD-centric drama, End of Watch.

Much of the running time is represented by footage captured by hand-held cameras employed by the films’ many characters. In this YouTube, viral-video fueled age, the ubiquitous nature of recording devices lends itself to this premise without much need to suspend disbelief, so the concept itself isn’t a problem.

Where Ayers missteps is when he abandons this down-home, organic feel for the traditional trappings of Hollywood filmmaking.  The transitions are often jarring and break immersion more than once. This is most apparent in a bullet-ridden finale that borrows from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Raid: Redemption and The Hurt Locker in mood, aesthetics and intensity.  It has its moments and it’s definitely intense, but as the curtain rises on the climax, Ayers seems to abandon his realistic approach and falls prey to the usual checklist of action movie clichés.

It’s a shame, too, because the story itself is worth telling, and the two actors at the center of the film, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, have such an affable and believable chemistry that ultimately you wish the film had treated them better.

Peña, especially, excels in his role, playing off Gyllenhaal and making it easy to believe that he’s just some Mexican beat cop in South Central LA.

The best moments of the film are when the two cops are just being themselves – fighting boredom and sleep during slow-moving late night patrols, shooting the breeze in their squad car while driving around, or spending time with each other’s families.  There’s a rare natural ease to their relationship, something usually reserved for black box theater.  This ease even translates well when the two respond to a call and have to perform actual police work.  You are able buy into their partnership – and their love for each other – and it keeps the movie afloat even when it’s nearly sabotaged by its aesthetics.

Your affection for these characters and what they mean to each other is what makes the unnatural moments all the more frustrating.  You’re reminded that yes, this is a movie and these are characters, and in a movie that’s shooting for gritty ultra-realism, it’s a mood killer.

Another jarring issue, surprisingly, is the film’s title. I don’t know a lot of police lingo, but I know enough to be dangerous, and End of Watch may be the first film I’ve ever seen whose title is actually a spoiler.

Overall, though, it is a movie that’s definitely worth seeing, if only for the performances.  There are a few decent set pieces as well, but the heart and soul of the film are its two principal actors, and they do their best to keep everything real, even when the director seems to forget how.

One Response to “‘End of Watch’ Review”

  1. I agree with Daniel’s review. Did it remind anyone else of a profanity-laden episode of TNT’s wonderful series, “Southland”? Even in its presentation, it was episodic. But I found it mesmerizing, and I was completely drawn in by Gyllenhaal and Pena’s performances despite of the film’s many cliches. I don’t think it’s a spoiler (but in case, read no further) to say that Pena’s character dies and Gyllenhaal’s should have died given the bullet-ridden climax. It was completely unrealistic that Gyllenhaal’s character could have survived that machine-gun attack that killed Pena’s character, especially given that the latter was draped over the former. Daniel is right about the performances; they are the reason to see the film. I rarely caught anyone acting which is saying a lot given the numerous opportunities afforded. Gyllenhaal and Pena are very, very good as archetypal characters. Despite the chilche, some plot problems, and inconsistent filming choices, I found the film a terrific viewing experience. 8/10.

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