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March 26, 2013

8

End of Watch

by Franz Patrick


End of Watch (2012)
★★★★ / ★★★★

Officer Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) is attending a film class as an elective so he chooses to document the every day happenings as an LAPD cop even though some of his fellow officers and superior do not like the idea. They think it is a liability waiting to happen as well as a distraction from the job. Unaware that a cartel is forming in South Central, when Officer Taylor and his partner, Officer Zavala (Michael Peña), end up arresting a man carrying multiple wads of cash hidden in soup and a golden firearm underneath the seat of a truck, it is an act similar to shaking a hornet’s nest. The drug cartel’s kingpin puts a price on their heads.

What makes “End of Watch,” written and directed by David Ayer, stand out from yet another film that chooses a hand-held camera style as a conceit to tell its story is its keen attention on the partnership between two characters. And although it has shootings that are expected in cop dramas, they hold an excitement every time because we learn and come to understand what it is at stake for the duo. While they do embody certain stereotypes, mainly cops relishing to command a level of power, they are neither defined nor limited by our expectations.

The chemistry between Peña and Gyllenhaal is a very necessary element that must be done just right in order to be believable. During down times, the two officers share a partnership that is more brotherly than professional. Their conversations in the patrol car quickly come to mind, ranging from the clichés of dating a white woman versus a Mexican woman to seeking each other’s advice about romantic relationships. Conversely, when the they find themselves in the middle of the action, their focus is on the job and yet there is an active attempt to maintain their connection. They keep each other in check just in case one gets too caught up in the moment or his own thoughts. It is expertly communicated that being a cop is as much as an internal battle as it is an external one.

The film put me through a roller coaster of emotions. It is admirable how the funny exchanges are intercut with scenes that hold genuine suspense, sadness, and horror. It is a scary reminder of the reality with which some people live. The image of an infant and a toddler with duct tape around their mouths and limbs because their drug-addicted parents cannot tolerate the crying shook me to the core. This scene, and others similar to it that are best left to be discovered and experienced, is allowed to unravel in a slow and calculated manner until the inevitable horror is reached.

A hindrance is the generous jumping of perspective. There is a noticeable disruption in momentum when a prior scene is through a cop’s eyes and the next that of a gangster’s. While the latter’s world is also very interesting, it might have been better off if the writer-director had not employed the hand-held camera style when they are front and center. There is much talk about needing “respect,” but we do not get to know them as much as Officers Taylor and Zavala.

“End of Watch” scrubs the glamour off policing. It may not have introduced situations I have not already seen but it creates a level of excitement tiers above similar pictures that are louder, badder, and ultimately emptier.

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8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Mar 26 2013

    Wow, nice review. Why haven’t I heard of it? Did it go straight to video? Anyway, gonna take a look. Thx!

    Reply
    • Mar 26 2013

      It probably did not get as many adverts as other movies that week, but the film did get a theatrical release.

      When I heard about it, I thought it was just going to be another police drama-thriller. Now I wish I could go back in time and watch it in theaters.

      Reply
      • Mar 27 2013

        Wow. I never saw the adverts. That’s too bad – it got buried.

        Reply
  2. Mar 27 2013

    I saw this in theaters actually and loved it too. I agree this should ahve been an even bigger hit. However it came out on September 21, 2012 weekend and it was the #1 film so it’s not like no one knew about it. It even made $41.0M and it only cost $7M to make so it was a success.

    Reply
    • Mar 27 2013

      Hi Mark!

      Good to know — I’m not one to keep track of numbers. I saw a few commercials on TV at the gym (reaction: “Jake Gyllenhaal as a cop? I’m not sure…”) and some enthusiastic reviews on YouTube. I was really surprised by the movie’s level of suspense… especially in the way the filmmakers chose to tell the story.

      Reply
  3. Apr 1 2013

    Nice review Franz, I saw this at the theater and thought it was pretty good. Certainly had a very realistic portrayal of LA cops and some great dialogue. Honestly, I could have lived without the found footage aspect and wish they had fleshed out the criminals a bit more. They seemed a bit one dimensional to me.

    Reply
  4. Apr 1 2013

    Franz, I posted this on reddit for you http://redd.it/1bfpuy

    Reply

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