End of Watch (2012)

<strong class="MovieTitle">End of Watch</strong> (2012)

(Video on Demand, February 2013) Writer/director David Ayer has basically worked his entire career so far in the “LAPD thriller” genre, but the surprise with End of Watch is how the film seems determined to re-invent the police drama, in presentation if not necessarily in content.  Seen from the street-level perspective of two LAPD officers, End of Watch deliberately creates its cinema-vérité atmosphere through the use of enough handheld camera footage as so not to distract when the entire film turns out shot more conventionally.  This appeal to realism is reinforced by actions that go against the grain of how movie policemen usually behave, along with dialogue that sounds improvised and a lack of detail regarding the big picture of the film’s plot.  The episodic plotting gets ludicrously flashy at times (our heroes get involved with enough drug stashes, imperilled kids, human trafficking rings, car chases and shootouts to qualify for the evening news several times over) but the direction of the film keeps everything grounded.  It helps that in-between the action sequences, End of Watch spends time a lot of time with its characters and so ends up focusing on their day-to-day reality.  Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t initially convincing as a tough police officer, but he gets more credible as the film advances.  Still, it’s Micahel Peña who steals the show in a typically compelling performance.  By End of Watch’s conclusion, it becomes clear that this is (unlike much of Ayer’s work-to-date) a film that celebrates the work of ordinary policemen: there are no corrupt cops here, no half-gangbangers, no superheroes: just two guys with badges, trying to do their jobs and make the world safer for their kids.

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