End of Watch (2012)
I saw this movie cold, knowing next to nothing about it, so the opening gave me my first misconception: we are straight into a point of view chase by some police officers who end up shooting dead some armed hoodlums at the end of it. It has the look and feel of a video game which is assisted by the digital print out at the top of the screen.
So, I thought, we’re going to get some sort of high-handed commentary on the desensitisation of human beings by way of technology. Nothing new there.
Then came the second misconception: these two LAPD cops are a couple of hotshots who are just out to make a name for themselves; and that is helped along by the first time we see them with the rest of the team at a roll call.
Well, you know something? It never hurts to get taken down a peg or two. Wrong on both counts, Brady. From here on in you will get to travel with these guys, listen in on their terrific banter and one thing is for sure: you will discover very early on that they are brave and very three-dimensional characters.
This is a terrific film.
There is a conceit set up early on whereby Officer Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) equips himself and his partner Zavala (Michael Pena) with a couple of miniature cameras to film themselves as they go about their day to day routine. It’s supposed to be part of a film project of his; or so he says, anyway. The gangstas that we’re about to meet (how I hate that term but what else do you call them—scum, maybe?) are also into filming everything that they do, right down to drive-by shootings. Now this is initially annoying but is it so far removed from reality?
A couple of weeks ago a man in Dublin died when a bus ran over his head. A lot of good concerned citizens were so shocked that they were jostling each other in order to get a better shot on their damnable mobile phone cameras. Horrible, but that’s the times we live in, heaven help us.
I’m not really sure why writer and director David Ayer introduced this POV idea because he only uses it sporadically. The hand held camera trick continues throughout, none the less.
This whole shaky camera gimmick goes back to ‘NYPD Blue’ (commercially, anyway) and after the Bourne movies you would think that maybe it’s become a bit redundant; and I’m certainly not a fan of that whole Cloverfield approach to film making. It makes me sea-sick. But wait! Don’t shout me down just yet: can you imagine the brilliant Chronicle without it? Well, it’s like that here. Now I can’t see what other way Ayer’s would have wanted to approach it.
All his fans go on and on about Tarantino’s naturalistic dialogue. They really have to listen to this film. I know that there was a script but at times you would swear there’s a lot of ad-libbing going on. Maybe there was and maybe there wasn’t. It doesn’t matter, it works.
As to that initial idea that it would make everything look like a video game? Forget it. Some of the stuff these guys come up against is just downright appalling, yes, too appalling even for a game (hopefully); and if it was a steady stream of that it wouldn’t have held me. Instead, the violence is interspersed with terrific scenes between the two men as well as with the women in their lives. There’s a particularly enjoyable interlude during a wedding. Damn it, I wish that I could dance like Gyllenhaal!
And talking of him, we’re used to that actor being good in just about everything but I hope that Michael Pena as Zavala is in no way overlooked. He is just fabulous here.
Best of all, just when you think that Ayers is going to blow it with a sentimental ending he swerves right away from that. This comes across as real almost every step of the way.
Even if you don’t usually like cop movies—and I can’t say that I’m over fond of them, myself—check this out. Surprise, surprise; a movie that doesn’t try to make us think that they are all bent. I don’t know about you, but I find that kind of refreshing for a change.
And seriously, folks. If you don’t come out of this with a lot of respect for what cops do—whilst at the same time questioning their sanity for doing it—there’s something very wrong with you.