Quickie(ish): End of Watch (2012)


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From the director of Harsh Times and Street Kings it’s fair to expect a gritty cop offering; and so it more than proves to be the case in David Ayer’s third LA takedown.

Using the found footage/docu style, Ayer really takes it down to the mean streets of south central LA once more to spend days in the life of two of the City’s finest, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena.

After a number of disturbing busts the blues “roll up” on something far bigger that puts them on a collision course with a dangerous drug cartel.

End of Watch feels gritty and authentic aided largely by Gyllenhaal and Pena’s superb buddy play and excellent performances.

Complimenting each other perfectly Gyllenhaal’s cocksure, recording officer Taylor leads Pena’s family man Zavala through a mix of bravery, duty and ambition into a variety of escalating encounters that bring recognition, exuberance but growing naivety.

Ayer’s practicing of the handheld capture serves to make EOW feel original; it may borrow from his own and other movies past but when taking the best of what has come before and effectively rolling them into a fresh new style the result is a gripping, often suffocating close up of the real heat on the streets of LA.

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Ayers broadens the view too by not completely relying on the first person view from body mounted and dashboard cameras which work superbly to create disorientation and claustrophobia, but when called on he takes it out with standard wider shots. Bridging shots across the searing night and day and plan view tracks capture the sprawling scale of LA’s mean streets; but while mixing it up, perhaps in an attempt to get away from the inevitable handheld motion sickness (I was getting woozy) the varied styling sometimes becomes inconsistent and even more frenetic to the point of distraction.

Focussing largely on the blue daily grind Ayer still takes the opportunity to widen the scope over Copland, adequately fleshing out other blue bloods showing camaraderie and rivalry within the south central precinct as well as the life and loves outside with Natalie Martinez and Anna Kendrick superb also as Wife and Girlfriend.

Ample time is also given to show developments from the criminal perspective; they too have a camera, but the clichéd crims are immensely annoying and exhaustingly profane.

Style inconsistencies and paper thin hoods stop End of Watch being an instant cop classic but with energetic direction and believable main characters it’s an exhilarating new take on the cop drama that oozes dynamism and atmosphere.

4 star plain

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24 responses to “Quickie(ish): End of Watch (2012)

  1. Nice review. When I first saw this, I was so blown away… it was so intense, so full of adrenaline… that my heart was pounding hours later. With time, I’m a little less impressed by it – but it’s still an excellent film. For me, the ‘found footage’ element becomes a bit forced at times. But it’s just got amazing energy and the two leads are both excellent… exhilarating for sure.

    • Thanks Orange, I was going to ‘Turbo review’ this one but i think it deserved more of a critique. I didn’t quite realise so many peeps like it TBh but seems to be a lot of appreciation for it. The found footage was diluted as soon as he started using others shots, it took a bit of realism away but it would have got very nauseating I think ( I get motion sickness of that kinda thing) but yep, overall the energy really carried it.

  2. Excellent review sir. I couldn’t agree more with your write-up and rating. The shaky-cam deal didnt work entirely and the bad ‘ins were very stereotypical but it’s still got enough drive to see it through.

    • thanks Mark, it nearly didn’t get a full four (but I don’t do halves) it sits in the lower end of four, if you catch my drift (this is getting confusing, maybe I should just do bloody halves :) the shaky cam didn’t entirely work but it was certainly dynamic, the bit when he is scrapping in the house with the guy I thought “great fight, but let me see it..” but just when I was beginning to slightly bored it really picked up and as you say, it got there.

  3. Of any movie in the last 5 years, this one had the greatest chemistry between its two leads. And I don’t mean that in some ha ha homoerotic way. They’re brothers. I believe it. Never doubted it. Great, tense, movie.

    • good call. they felt like brothers for sure and they’re chemistry was the best thing about it. Thanks Nick, glad you liked it too.

  4. Good review. I loved the chemistry between these two, even if the movie that’s along for the ride with them wasn’t as great.

    • I thought it did well when there isn’t much more that could be done with the whole gritty LA cop thingy which seems to have been done a lot over the years. A good character study and quite right, really good bond between the two leads.

  5. I’ll definitely agree that the changing filming styles was definitely distracting, and the film suffered a major case of identity crisis as a result. Still though, enjoyable flick that stands out mainly due to the two leads’ awesome chemistry. Without them, this thing probably would have been a mess. Nice review, man. :)

    • good point, it may well have fell flat on it face, but it centered on them both and was the better for it, I actually cared for them both even if they weren’t wholly likeable they were honest and dedicated to the job and each other. As Nick describes “brothers”. Thanks for the praise Chris.

  6. Great review! I’ve been curious about this one for some time. How violent is it? Just so I can set my expectations :)

  7. Some of the most realistic cop dialogue I have ever heard. Similarly, you really felt like they were partners. I could have done with out the found footage aspect and wish the criminals were fleshed out a bit more they just seemed like caricatures.

    • very true, they got the buddies good didn’t they? the found footage was good but it seemed gimmicky once we realise it isn’t the perspective for the whole movie, but I think I would have got motion sickness! The Bad guys were woeful! Thanks Jedi!

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