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USA 2012
Directed by
David Ayer
109 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
3.5 stars

End Of Watch

Synopsis: In South Central LA, officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhall) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) patrol the streets. Brian is taking a filmmaking elective for his pre-law degree, so he’s videoing everything thing they do.

Hands up everyone who groans when they see another film using the “found footage” gimmick? Well, you’ll be groaning here too. The excuses found to have all manner of handheld footage, surveillance, etc are ridiculous. Worse, the opening monologue, somehow delivered without bursting into ashamed laughter, is genuinely dire in its self-importance. This is a film that’s not off to a good start. But thankfully, it’s reasonably inconsistent in its citizen journalist approach to mise-en-scène, and there’s plenty of nicely filmed scenes that, mercifully, transgress the whole conceit. But more than that, the film begins to cohere as its underlying theme becomes clear.

End Of Watch isn’t a crime thriller; there’s barely a narrative to be found, and the few plot points there are mostly happen in the background. It’s a story about the friendship between Taylor and Zavala, the brotherhood they feel and the way they share their lives together. The trailer might sell you a film about two cops who run afoul of a Mexican drug cartel, but what you get is a heartfelt bromance. It caught me completely by surprise, as my early trepidations faded away and the stylistic pretensions became background noise to a really interesting story of two men’s lives.

There is plenty of action, chases, heroics and chaos, but it’s window dressing around what is basically two guys in a car talking to each other, goofing off and struggling with what it means to be a good partner or father. The chemistry between Gyllenhall and Pena is strong, and convincingly runs the range from the antics of a couple of naughty schoolboys to two men in a desperate fight to save each other’s lives. There’s no false notes in their performances. The same can’t be said of the erstwhile villains of the piece, a small time gangster named Big Evil and his crew. They’re kind of painful to watch, and their final shootout has to be one of the most awkward die-in-a-blaze-of-gunfire scenes I’ve seen. Seriously, shaking around like you’ve been shot shouldn’t look this bad.

But like I said, this not really a crime thriller. It’s a film about two men living a shared life, following the highs and the lows of their day-today lives. It’s not perfect, there’s more ideas played with than the director had the ability to pull off, but with two excellent central performances it’s really solid. Despite the familiarity of the approach, and more than a few stumbles in its execution, End Of Watch is a surprisingly compelling film.




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