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Quick Thoughts on End of Watch (2012)
Director: David Ayer
Cast:Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrara, Cody Horn, Frank Grillo, David Harbour
End of Watch is a visceral and thrilling police drama, carried by some solid lead performances, but nearly undone by the truly atrocious camera work. With the exception of a few crisp high angle shots of L.A., as well as those few quiet moments where buddy cops Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal)and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) ride around in their squad car, the movie is shot like a found footage film. Some of the cops wear clip-on cameras, and Brian sneaks in an HD camera, against department policy, while on duty, for an extracurricular film class he's taking. Many of the angles are shot through these cameras, which was no doubt an attempt by Training Day scribe David Ayer to add a gritty feel to the proceedings, but renders some of the action nearly impossible to follow.
This is especially true of a sequence where Brian and Mike rush inside a burning house to rescue two small children trapped inside. The scene is so hideously rendered that I had to look away from the screen; it was almost too painful to continue watching. The movie also suffers from a climax that feels overblown when compared to everything that proceeded it. Brian and Mike are lured into a trap by a Mexican gang. The gang fires automatic weapons at them, while they're in the open, and the only thing they can hit is Brian's hand? Either these clowns weren't really trying to kill these cops, or they just have the worst aim imaginable.
Yet despite these faults, End of Watch does work. In detailing the day's work of a Los Angeles police officer, End of Watch feels startlingly realistic. Brian and Mike note that they both see more action in one day than most cops see in their careers, and Ayer certainly captures the harsh reality of their line of work brilliantly. There is one scene where they answer an “officer down” call on the radio, and they find one of their fellow officers in shock with a knife wedged in his eye. It's a pretty harrowing scene, but not as harrowing as what they find when they go and investigate an elderly woman at her house. It's been two days since I've seen the film, and I'm still haunted by what they find in her house.
It's not all action, of course. There are stretches in between police calls where the cops seem bored and tired. It's here where Ayer allows for some rather amusing exchanges between the two cops, and both Gyllenhaal and Pena have such a natural chemistry that it makes these scenes all the more engaging. Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez co-star as the women in their lives, and while neither of them are given a whole lot to do, both of them make an impression with their small roles and are given at least one scene to shine (Kendrick has an adorable scene where she goes through Brian's wallet; Martinez has a hilarious moment where she gives some inappropriate advice to Brian and Kendrick's Janet on their wedding day). The human elements work surprisingly well in End of Watch, as do the more intense moments in the film.
I just really wished Ayer didn't shake that bloody camera so much.
*** (out of ****)
Other Critics on End of Watch
My Other Reviews
- Movie Review: Robert Zemeckis' Flight (2012)
Long overdue review for the Robert Zemeckis drama "Flight."
- Movie: Review: A Depressing and Shameful "Act"
- A Second Look at "Silent Hill" (2006)
- Silent House Loses Us in the End