Movie Review: End of Watch [2012]

End of Watch [2012]

End of Watch [2012]
Director: David Ayer
Screenplay: David Ayer
Genre: Crime/Drama/Thriller
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez
Running Time: 109 minutes

End of Watch is a police movie that nails one aspect that many others often neglect: the virtue of humanity.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena spent five months riding along (for 12 hours at a time) with several different Los Angeles law enforcement agencies in order to prepare for their roles as police officers Brian Taylor and Miguel Zavala, respectively. This commitment to their roles is extremely noticeable in their performances, as the duo feel like a pair of real life cops with their authentic banter (much of which was improvised).

End of Watch [2012]

End of Watch doesn’t have a typical plot. Most of the film feels like a hybrid of the TV show Cops and a buddy cop movie, but with an even greater air of authenticity thanks to its use of handheld cameras (more on that later). The pair of officers perform some questionable acts — such as Zavala openly brawling with a suspect in a fit of testosterone-induced action — but they remain mostly honest cops who are willing to risk their lives to save others.

When the officers stumble upon the shady underworld of a Mexican cartel, the shit hits the fan. Suddenly they find themselves entangled with the wrong group of people. As they go deeper and deeper into some truly disturbing stuff, they struggle to maintain their personal lives. Zavala is married with a child on the way, and Taylor has a blossoming relationship with fellow twenty-something Janet (Anna Kendrick). These women are well aware of the risks their men take on the job, something they are reluctantly forced to live with.

End of Watch [2012]

As mentioned earlier, part of what makes End of Watch stand out from other like-minded films is its reliance on handheld camera work. At the beginning of the movie, Taylor is shown filming everything in sight for a class project. We are often shown the perspective from his lens, but there are also many other camera angles used, most of which use the same handheld “shaky cam” technique. The transition from different angles is jarring at first, especially since the beginning of the film seems to insinuate this will be using footage from Taylor’s camera. Some of the car chase scenes using the in-dash video are tough to stomach, as are a handful of the especially-shaky action moments. While I can appreciate director David Ayer’s decision to experiment with these different techniques, I almost wish he were a little more consistent. There were also times where the camerawork made it feel as if I were watching a video game, as evidenced by its occasional “first person shooter” viewpoints, and this ultimately grew to be distracting.

While the camerawork is hit-and-miss, the sense of realism is an absolute high point. Gyllenhaal and Pena have impeccable chemistry, and the tight-knit bond between their characters feels legit. The rest of the supporting cast, led by Natalie Martinez and Anna Kendrick as their significant others, also do well in their given roles.

End of Watch [2012]

One aspect that the film scraps with is its overabundance of foreshadowing. There were far too many dialogue exchanges that spoke of impending doom, and they were laid on so thick that the film ultimately became predictable as a result. Perhaps the outcome wasn’t too unfamiliar at the beginning anyway, but I could have done without the ominous remarks.

At any rate, End of Watch is still an entertaining ride that is well worth seeing just for the partnership between Gyllenhaal and Pena. The film looks at the lives of police officers in a different light, and the character relationships make it stand out from the rest. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t quite reach the level of greatness that it sets out for.