End of Watch (15)

Directed by David Ayer
On general release from 23rd November 2012

Reviewed by jjSchaer

End of Watch is the latest offering from writer cum director David Ayer (him of Training Day (2001) fame), it stars Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Pena as two L.A. cops dealing with a series of brutal crimes on a daily basis – crack heads, child abuse, drive-bys and eye mutilation are all just part of the job. They’re your usual renegade types: indulging in violent shoot outs and saving kids, whilst defending themselves against departmental criticism by flashing their medals for honour in the face of any detractors. Then one day a random house search leads to a discovery that makes them the targets of a powerful drugs cartel…

The film is shot partly as a pseudo-documentary (Gyllenhall’s character is chronicling his life for a film studies class and most of the minor characters have cameras at the ready to preserve their felonious activities) and the rest is shot in classic Hollywood shaky-cam style. It slowly becomes infuriating how the director keeps cutting between the two styles when the film would have worked with one or the other. Random close-ups are spliced into the docu bits and you slowly become more than aware that the angles don’t match up with where the characters are pointing their cameras. It falls short where recent films like Chronicle (2012) and, the frankly amazing low budget horror, V/H/S (2012) have succeeded.

Despite the grimy environment and some shocking violent scenes, there is a lack of realism about the whole film and it slowly seems more like another predictable Hollywood cop film. The over the top violence that they encounter frequently seems more like once in a lifetime events for actual law enforcement. There’s even a bit of romance thrown in with two of Hollywood’s so-hot-right-now starlets (Gyllenhall and Anna Kendrick). Plus the director’s constant abandonment of the self-recorded bits reminds us that this is simply a film and not even a faux-documentary.

I’ll have to say that it is an entertaining film – in a way in which you know exactly what’s going to happen next. Gyllenhall is as competent as ever and it is interesting seeing Pena in a relatively straight role. However, it tries to appear as some gritty film offering an insight into the world of gangs, drugs and guns. But it just ends up another overly stylised, formulaic police drama… It’s Training Day all over again.

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