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.


Movie Review: 30 Minutes or Less [2011]

30 Minutes or Less [2011]

30 Minutes or Less [2011]
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Genre: Action/Adventure/Comedy
Language: English
Country: USA

Everything about 30 Minutes or Less is just twisted. How much you enjoy the film rests largely on your morals.

The movie is based on a bizarre and horrifying true story about a pizza delivery man who was allegedly forced to rob a bank by a couple of thugs who strapped a bomb on him. In reality, the pizza guy died after the bomb detonated while he was surrounded by police. His death makes this disturbing story a tragic one, and it blows my mind how someone decided to turn this into a dark comedy.

That’s where 30 Minutes or Less comes in. The movie isn’t entirely accurate in regards to the real-life event, but it is strikingly similar.

Jesse Eisenberg, fresh off his stirring lead performance in The Social Network, amusingly takes on the role of Nick, the pizza delivery driver. Nick is a 20-something with seemingly no direction in life. He pisses off his best (and only?) friend, Chet (Aziz Ansari), after telling him that he slept with his twin sister. Things aren’t going well for him already, before the kidnapping even begins.

30 Minutes or Less [2011]

On the other side of the spectrum are Dwayne (Danny McBride) and Travis (Nick Swardson), a couple of redneck thugs who clean Dwayne’s father’s pool for $10/hr. One day Dwayne gets the idea to hire a hitman to kill his father, thereby granting him his inheritance. The problem is that the hitman costs $100,000, and the duo have nowhere near this much cash. This is where they come up with the fucked up idea to kidnap a complete stranger (in this case, a pizza delivery guy) and force him to rob a bank by strapping a bomb to his chest.

After Nick is held hostage, armed with the bomb and told of the plan, he turns to Chet to help him with this insane dilemma. Chet agrees to look past their differences in order to help his friend in need, and the movie quickly becomes a buddy action-comedy.

At a brisk 83 minutes, 30 Minutes or Less is a wild ride. The action is brash and in-your-face, and the comedy is dark and oftentimes hilarious. Eisenberg and Ansari are a surprisingly great duo, as they feed off each other nicely, with Ansari in particular delivering some great zingers. McBride and Swardson also play a formidable tandem, with the former channeling his inner-Kenny Powers to full effect. Michael Pena also has a surprisingly great role as the hitman, often stealing the scenes he is in.

30 Minutes or Less [2011]

I was initially intrigued by this movie partly because of its location. 30 Minutes or Less was filmed in Grand Rapids, Michigan, which is my old stomping grounds. I actually used to be a pizza delivery driver a little north of there, too, so I totally understand the feeling of dealing with shit customers (advice: don’t order delivery if you can’t afford a tip!). It was pretty cool to see the area again, even if the movie didn’t paint the city in the friendliest light. For that, check out the YouTube-famous Grand Rapids Lip Dub.

The bottom line here is this: if the idea of a real life tragedy being turned into a comedy upsets you, then obviously this movie isn’t for you. I found the movie to be a blast (no pun intended, I swear), even though I felt it started to fall apart near the end. Funny, profane and ridiculously fast-paced, 30 Minutes or Less is a joy ride well worth seeing.