Greensburg Daily News, Greensburg, IN

September 27, 2012

End of Watch a middling police drama

Andy Stuckey, Ryan Maddux
Greensburg Daily News

Greensburg — This week we’ll be taking a look at the police drama, End of Watch (R).

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena star in the film as a couple of blossoming LAPD officers on the beat in South Central. During their beat they stumble upon a web of drugs and money tied to a dangerous Mexican cartel. Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez costar in the film. David Ayer directs.

Ryan: With its stark look, End of Watch has the feel of an instantly relevant contemporary film. From the use of the shaky camera to the first-person points of view, End of Watch displays, for better or worse, many of the trends of modern cinema. I don’t personally mind this approach, but it is not seemingly integrated with the more traditional film-making elements. What I mean is that it is clear from the beginning of the movie that End of Watch was supposed to be a film weaved together through footage “shot” by the cast of characters. And while much of the movie utilizes the first-person shots, there are plenty of third-person omniscient shots cut into the film.

That’s fine, but it does run counter to the intent of the film and the cross-cutting between first and third-person shots does become nonsensical at times — and it does become slightly annoying when characters have to justify to each other why they are using a camera. All-in-all, End of Watch is a passable film but nothing more.

Andy: There is no question that End of Watch is attempting to have a consistent aesthetic.

Sometimes that aesthetic is a powerful device, and other times it obstructs the narrative. It may have been more effective to include these cinema verite shots without attempting to justify them in the plot, which gets bogged down and sacrifices some realism. The result is that the movie feels like it is trying to be a piece of cinema, but it doesn’t have the writing or directorial chops to reach that goal. When End of Watch focuses on being an action-driven buddy cop movie it is much more successful than when it tries to be art.

Ryan: What mainly prevents End of Watch from being a sub-par film is the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Pena. Buddy cop movies are nothing new, but the “bromance” between the two leads comes across as being legit and does complement the freshness the movie is trying to produce.

Not every scene works between the two (especially the very last one) but more often than not, they do display an authenticity that comes across as being (slightly) enticing. Unfortunately, their appeal as a duo cannot overcome the narrative shortcomings in the film. Ultimately, the mock-documenting of a gritty police drama seemed like a good idea in the hands of David Ayer (screenwriter of Training Day), but regrettably he’s unable match the rest of the movie to the notable performances of the two leads.

Andy: The charisma of the two leads, coupled with the inherent intensity and suspense that comes with a police action film, are the only two things holding this movie above water. Gyllenhaal and Pena are great together, both creating characters that are believable, flawed, and highly likable. This is not an easy task, and to see two actors side-by-side delivering such roles is a bit of a treat. I would even disagree with Ryan about the last scene of the movie.

I have big problems with the composition of the film’s conclusion, but the final scene is a sweet send-off that highlights the film’s most valuable resource, its two leading actors.     

End of Watch is full of film-school tricks, plot twists, uninteresting stock villains, and other devices largely that fall flat.

Still, the power of Gyllenhaal and Pena’s performances lift End of Watch to a C+.