Movie Review: "End of Watch" (2012)

Written by: David Ayer
Directed by: David Ayer
Rated: R
Running Time: 109 minutes

Jake Gyllenhaal: Officer Taylor
Michael Pena: Officer Zavala

"End of Watch" follows the LAPD in South Central. Being a big fan of "Southland", I was looking forward to a gritty drama showing the dangers faced by these brave men and women of the police on a daily basis. Officer Taylor is currently studying prelaw and one of his electives is filmmaking. Therefore, he carries cameras to film his day, which is a convenient way to capture what is supposed to be a realistic portrayal of police work. But unlike "Southland", this film never feels authentic. 

In one of the more unbelievable scenes, Officers Taylor and Zavala respond to a call of an assault to a mail carrier. When they arrive, Officer Zavala decides to get into an old-fashioned fist fight with the suspect. Professionalism be damned; he's a cop and he's gonna kick some ass. I didn't buy it. Later, the suspect is seen telling his friends about it, giving props to the cops and giving them some street cred.

There is a touching scene where Officer Taylor discovers two kids bound with duct tape in their mother's closet. She's called the cops telling them the kids are missing. The reality is that she's clearly a junkie and her boyfriend has put the kids in the closet to keep them quiet and out of the way. The problem with this film is that they never give the main characters time to feel anything. You can see that Officer Taylor is touched by the children, but after one second of emotion, it's on to the next shift. I suppose we are to gather from this that the real life of a cop doesn't allow for the time to process emotions, but they are human.

Meanwhile we are taken into the world of hispanic gangs with drive-by shootings, drugs, and sex. Of course, our two main officers come into contact with the gang at a party. The LAPD officers get into a trash talking contest, making the cops seem like a gang and not law enforcement professionals.

Despite their best efforts at being flippant, they do have their hearts in the right place. When they try to bring down some really bad guys, they end up stepping on some dangerous toes, in the department and in the drug cartel. They make some discoveries that are hard to stomach and could lead them to trouble.

The use of the handheld camera comes and goes. At the beginning, that is all we see. Then at some point in the movie, this approach is abandoned for the more traditional style of filming. It is inconsistent and distracting. In fact, the editing of this film makes it difficult to really get into it.

The performances aren't bad. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are both really talented actors, but I don't think the script or direction of this film did them any favors. The last half of the film picks up a bit and finally finds it's voice. It's a mediocre cop film, but might be worth a view on DVD. You can get in in my Amazon store to the right of this page or at iTunes here:

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