End of Watch (2012)

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.



Author: Charley Brady

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  1. I had heard so many good things about this movie that my expectations were high going in, as it turned out probably unreasonably high, while I enjoyed the movie it didn’t leave me feeling that I’d just seen the mother of all cop buddy movies.

    It was mercifully free of the usual cliched cop buddy movie, you know the ones where one cop is happily married with a loving family the other usually has an estranged wife and estranged daughter, his job been all consuming, she’s not getting any loving attention so she leaves him blah blah and of course he turns to the bottle to offset his loneliness.

    You couldn’t help but like the two buddies in End of Watch, their years together working the streets allowed to them to build up a genuine friendship, while Gyllenhaal does an admirable job I agree its Pena who steals the show, I’m sure he’ll be considered for at least a best supporting role, well I’m presuming Jake is the main draw?.

    Spoiler alert!!!, one scene was really silly, when the gangsta’s set them up by luring them to a building where 4 or 5 armed to the teeth Gangsta’s with assault weapons were waiting for them in an open hall with a perfect field of fire from the balcony above, when the buddies entered they opened up with a hail of bullets, why are the bad guys always such bad shots?, only one of the hundreds of rounds fired found its target, not exactly a kill shot either a wound to the palm of the hand. I know I’m been a little cynical but scenes like that just defy logic both of them should have been virtually cut in two with such fire power.
    The ending while certainly dramatic did seem a tad forced and a little OTT, overall I thought it was an enjoyable enough movie but certainly not the classic I was led to believe, well of course that’s only my opinion, others it seems got a lot more out of it than I did.

  2. Great mail, Patrick. And thanks for having the manners to put in the spoiler alert! I better do the same right here.

    I was wondering if the scene you describe would irritate anyone. Personally I didn’t find the setting up of the ambush that far fetched at all; but this thing about the bad guys always being such bad shots, yeah a bit of a movie cliche all right. I’m tempted to mention some of the botched shootings we’ve had here in Ireland by guys so drugged up that they don’t seem to know where to aim (how many times have they failed to kill the Viper? Five, is it? but these all seemed to be semi-automatic weapons–open to correction, don’t know anything about guns–and it is hard to see how they missed. Maybe all that ridiculous bloody bling that they put on their guns throws things out a bit. “Liberace’s AK”…love that line.

    To be honest, the scene that I really did have a problem with was when Pena stripped off his badge and gun in order to fight the bad guy one-to- one. I don’t know, would anyone but a headcase do that? And he wasn’t a headcase.

    I do hope that Pena gets a nod at Oscar time.

    You say that you went in, having heard how great it was and found yourself disappointed. Like I said at the start, I saw it cold, knowing nothing about it. So it was a very different cop movie for me and I liked that. Funnily enough, it was only at the end when David Ayer’s name came up that I realised it was written by the guy who did ‘Training Day’, a movie that I was very let down by…because I had heard so much about it. Yes, even with the great Denzil Washington starring.

    There’s a lesson there somewhere.

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