Every once in a while you come across a movie that just works a little better on the small screen then it did on the big one. It's time roll out for "End of Watch".
Written & Directed by David Ayer
“End of Watch” puts the audience right in the middle of the chase. Two young LA police officers (Gyllenhaal and Pena) discover a secret that makes them the target of the country’s most dangerous drug cartel. We watch these two young men patrol some of the darkest and most violent corners of South Central Los Angeles as they risk their lives on a daily basis and witness the toll it takes on their families as they put themselves in harm’s way for the greater good.
Writer/director David Ayer has based the bulk of his career around doing films centered around the LAPD; some that he has written have worked (“Training Day”) but when he has stepped into the director’s chair the results haven’t always been as solid (“Harsh Times”) and on “End of Watch” the results admittedly fall somewhere in the middle that actually play a little better on the small screen then they did on the big screen. Using the ‘movie within a movie’ device to explain away the use of the handheld camera’s got fairly distracting very early on as the line blurred between what the characters were filming and what the director was actually filming making for some moments in the narrative that got more than a little muddled. Had it been used in much smaller doses, it could have come off much more effectively but the quick cuts and shaky cam work that was supposed put us in the moment and on the streets actually took us out of it at times, these moments played a little easier at home but it was still a little jarring at time. As we as an audience never get the chance to experience any of the emotions that these characters are going through, we as an audience always feel like we are on the outside looking in. While the narrative had some jumpy moments that didn't always work there is enough going on in this story to hold the audience’s attention thanks to some fairly strong performances by Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Pena who elevate the material above where it should have been.
As partners on the mean streets of Los Angeles, both Gyllenhaal & Pena have fantastic on screen chemistry together actually making Ayer’s shaky cam style for this film work in their favor. As the semi realistic style of the film seeps into their performances we feel the genuine camaraderie of not only two police officers who are relying on each other to survive another shift but as two friends who will have each other’s back through thick and through thin no matter what. Their relationship is the only thing in the entire film where there are any legitimate emotional stakes for the audience to grab on to and it works because it feels like a genuine love story between friends and brothers and to both men's credit they make it work very well. Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, Frank Grillo and David Harbour all show up in smaller supporting roles and do a fine job, but it is the chemistry between Gyllenhaal & Pena that puts this film over the top.
Picture and sound quality on the Blu-Ray is as solid as expected and the special features include a feature length audio commentary track from Writer/Director David Ayer, deleted scenes and 6 behind the scenes featurettes.
While the visual style of “End of Watch” with its overreliance on the ‘shaky-cam’ style won’t win over a lot of people as some of the visuals bordered on video game like at times, it is actually a decent entry into the cop drama genre thanks to some strong work from the films two leads that will really hit you and is worth a look.
3 out of 5 stars.
"End of Watch" is now available for rent on DVD & Blu-Ray at video stores all across the country as well as via all major cable providers. You can also find it available for purchase at all major retailers like amazon.ca, iTunes and HMV.