Belated Review: End of Watch
The found footage device of film-making was one used primarily by the horror genre. Most famously used in Cannibal Holocaust, were it worked so well the director had to prove in court it was only a movie. Blair Witch Project reignited the trend, and now many genres from Monster movie (Cloverfield), superhero film (chronicle), and now the cop thriller can be added to the list.
This device seems to have reached its saturation point recently, and the worry is that it may start to alienate viewers. So first thing is first, on End of Watch, the found footage aspect isn’t perfect. At times it’s treated as a hindrance, with the director seemingly forgetting just who is recording certain scenes. It doesn’t distract too much from the film, but it isn’t entirely necessary either.
One of the reasons it isn’t necessary is because writer/director David Ayer has created a thrilling and authentic police drama, with a genuine and sincere central relationship between cops played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. As a pair of Los Angeles cops, they are fantastic. Without falling too much into the ‘bromance’ clichés that fill the genre, they come across as honest, well intentioned, good police officers. Pena’s Mike Zavala the family man, Gyllenhaal’s Brian Taylor the more hot-headed and ambitious of the pair may not be the most original police partnership, but their chemistry draws the viewer into their world, and gives End of Watch two characters for the audience to get emotionally invested in. Mention must also go to Anna Kendrick as the love interest of Taylor, making the most of what is basically a bit part, helping to confirm the belief that she is one of the most adorable (and talented) young actresses in Hollywood.
The first act follows the partners around their day to day jobs, with Taylor conveniently recording everything for a film he is making. From the banter in the station to busts on the streets, the typical life of a LA cop makes for surprisingly enjoyable viewing. Events take a turn for the worse when a seemingly routine car stop is found to have drugs and blinged up weapons belonging to a Mexican drug cartel. From then on End of Watch really gets into gear.
Hollywood has been fairly slow to react to the current war on drugs in Mexico, in which 56000 have died in recent years due to violence acted out by the cartels. Here, the sense of mindless barbarism is touched upon, in one scene brutally and emphatically so. And when the duo are ambushed by the cartels hired guns, it makes for the most tense and authentic shootouts on the cinema screen this year.
Taking inspiration from the glut of excellent police dramas that US television has produced in recent years, End of Watch fuses the grittiness and honest humour that comes from the job, and the characters within, perfectly. The climax packs an emotional punch, even if the very last scene is somewhat misjudged. But it is a rare bum note in what is the finest cop movie in years.
Down With Film Rating 4/5