End Of Watch * * * *

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Director: David Ayer.
Screenplay: David Ayer.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, David Harbour, Cody Horn, Maurice Compte, Diamonique.

David Ayer certainly seems to know his way around South Central Los Angeles: He delivered the screenplay to the Oscar winning “Training Day” in 2001 before making his directorial debut, four years later, with “Harsh Times“. The James Ellroy adaptation “Street Kings” followed, and with his latest being yet another foray into those crime-ridden L.A. ghettos this is confirmation of Ayer’s comfort zone.

L.A. cops Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) routinely patrol the streets and neighbourhoods of South Central. These guys aren’t just partners but good friends and they both take their jobs very seriously. It’s the strong bond between them that allow them to effectively deal with life threatening situations every day. But through their absolute commitment to their work, they discover a violent drugs cartel that puts both their lives in danger.

Anyone familiar with the aforementioned films that Ayer has been involved in, will know that he has a propensity to focus a lot on the interplay of his characters; mainly this is done in the car, allowing the audience to get a closer proximity to the back and forth banter and camaraderie. Where this film differs though, is in the use of a found footage/steady-cam approach. This particular style may be wearing thin with a lot of people (myself included) but for the most part, it works here. Following a couple of cops on the beat adds another angle to the sub-genre that’s not been explored yet and taps into the voyeuristic nature of the reality tv shows that we’re bombarded with these days. I’ve never really been a fan of these neo-fascist, propaganda shows that depict the police carrying out their duties but sometimes they can be intriguing and many find them very appealing. However, Ayer is smart enough not to rely solely on this ‘reality’ approach; he intercuts it with wide-angles whenever the documentary vibe is unsuitable, which gives a good overall balance to the action. That being said, the film does suffer periodic lulls and falls prey to cliche with underwritten and stereotypical gangsters but it’s the rapport between Gyllenhaal and Peña that keep the film interesting and involving. Both deliver solid performances and their exchanges of dialogue are entirely believable and, at times, genuinely humorous.

The steady-cam now makes it’s way into the mainstream with some financial backing and familiar faces involved. It may irritate some but ultimately adds a sense of realism that’s required for the material. Once you accept the conceit, the rest is an intense, visceral and action filled movie.

Mark Walker

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33 Responses to “End Of Watch * * * *”

  1. Yeah, pretty much my take and rating for this. The strength of the film are the partners center stage and the weakness the “stereotypical gangsters”. Good look at this one, Mark.

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    • Thanks Michael. Gyllenhaal and Pena were excellent and the banter between them was definitely the highlight. It cuts corners with every other character but thankfully those two are so good, it makes it all worth while.

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  2. Great review! I heard a lot of good things about this movie, but the last few films about cops I’ve seen were disappointing, so I’m in no rush to see this one.

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  3. Interesting – I haven’t heard of this movie. I also haven’t seen any of this guys other films.

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    • It’s worth checking out Misty. The two leads are superb and the shakey-cam routine works well for the most part. His other films are worth a watch as well. It’s been ages since I’ve seen it but I remember really liking Harsh Times with Christian Bale.

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  4. Saw this on Friday and really liked it, probably one of my favorites this year.

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  5. Nice take on it. You’re definitely right… its the back and forth between Gyllenhaal and Peña that’s the strong suit of this flick. Some of the other stuff goes WAY over the top. LOL. I liked it though. Decent watch.

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    • Yeah, the bad guys were a bit over the top. I forget his name but it was something like Mr. Big Evil. For me he was your classic stereotype but other than the underwritten supporting characters, the film was well handled.

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  6. This sounds really good, despite the flaws. I have this on my watchlist. Great review, Mark!

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  7. Good review Mark. Not perfect, but the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Pena is and that’s really what this flick is meant to be seen for. Everything else is just okay and generic.

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    • Yeah, there is some generic stuff at play here Dan. I agree, but for the most part it was a gripping film. The rapport between Gyllenhaal and Pena is certainly the highlight.

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  8. I know it’s not going to happen, but I’d love to see an oscar nod for one of the two leads here. With such still competition from films like Lincoln, The Master and Silver Linings Playbook though that’ll be tough to do. Good review 🙂

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    • Thanks Andy. I doubt an Oscar nod will come for either of them but that doesn’t take away from the great work they put in. It’d be hard to separate them for an award as well I think. It’s more of double-act with each as good as the other.

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  9. Great review, Mark. I’m seeing this one very soon 🙂 I’ve only heard good things about Gyllenhaal and Peña.

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  10. This does look pretty intense in the trailer. I’m curious about this once you said Ayer wrote “Training Day” even though I haven’t seen it yet. I’m not fond of Jake G though, but I’ve been impressed with some of the supporting roles Michael Peña did so I might rent this one. Great review Mark!

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  11. I’ve been looking forward to this and it’s yet another that my local cinema is shunning to cram in even more showings of Skyfall and Twilight. Nice write up!

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    • I know what you mean trying to see stuff with Skyfall and Twilight on. A lot of good looking movies have been swept aside for them. Thankfully this is one that has survived in my local cinema. I hope you get a chance soon, it a good film.

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  12. Sounds like my kind of movie. Blockbuster queue.

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  13. ilovethatfilm Says:

    Hi there! Great review.. totally agree that the gangsters were underwritten stereotypes but it is ALL about the banter between the cops! The wives get similarly neglected but that moment with Kendrick and Gyllenhaal singing in the car was awesome! And the soundtrack rocks!

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    • Hey there! I couldn’t agree more with you. All characters were underwritten except for the two leads but that was enough. They both bounced off each other brilliantly. Thanks for stopping by and the recent follow as well. Much appreciated. 🙂

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  14. Victor De Leon Says:

    I have this one lined up to watch. Good write up, Mark.

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  15. Just finished this today. Unreal.
    Intense and reminiscent of ‘Colors’, perhaps a little more hardcore though. Great review.

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