Thursday, September 27

REVIEW: End of Watch

Directed by David Ayer
Crime Drama
From Open Road and
Exclusive Media Group
1 hour 49 minutes

Jake Gyllenhaal
Michael Peña
Natalie Martinez
Anna Kendrick
David Harbour
Frank Grillo
America Ferrera

Let's cut to the chase.  I think this is one of the best cop movies I have ever seen.  If I used the 1/2 designation with my three-star rating, I would so bestow it.  (My criticisms are minor but they're there.)  It is a character-driven piece rather than the standard violence-driven but the violence is present and accounted for.

That attention to vivid characterization is what makes the film so compelling to me.  I almost felt like I was in the patrol car with them, the third partner, so absorbed in all that was happening.  We civilians have an awareness of the bond cop partners share.  They watch each other's backs literally and figuratively.  They would look after the other's families, too, should the need arise to do that.  They share everything.  They would die for each other.  They are brothers.  They love one another.  It is a bond like no other.  This is displayed throughout the film; in fact, great care and attention is given to it.  I was very impressed.  The writing of these characters is what made me care about this film as much as I do.

Much of the movie seems to take place in their patrol car and it's another part of the film's success for it provides much intimacy.  The humor was there, the two of them usually engaging in that male bantering and posturing designed to get the other's blood pressure to rise.  We learn about each of them through that humor but also through chatting up their past, present and hoped-for futures.  We know what they love and hate and fear and honor.

Along the way we go on call with them in South Central L.A.  There's no Hollywood Bowl or leisurely drive down movie star-laced Sunset Blvd. to the sea.  This is gritty and explosive and dangerous.  It's amazing the partners' humor is on view as much as it is considering their beat.  They go on some calls that are super risky, inviting peril at various levels, and providing enough excitement to keep you hyped-up for the rest of the day.

Long into the movie they confiscate some items from a local cartel who, in turn, vows to get them.  Those who serve up publicity for the film might have us believe that this event is something that happens earlier in the film.  If it had happened earlier, this movie would have been more violence-oriented resulting in 19 chase scenes.  We are lucky to have it told the way it was. 

We have two leading men here.  The screen time seemed equal.  Big-eyed, wide-mouthed Gyllenhaal hasn't been this good in his last half dozen movies.  I would suspect he'll get some well-deserved recognition.  Peña is not as well known as Gyllenhaal but he more than held his own with his attention-grabbing co-star.  He was tucked away in the casts of Crash, World Trade Center and The Lincoln Lawyer and here's hoping his Hollywood status is raised due to his fine work here.  Gyllenhaal, as one of the film's gazillion producers, might have had a hand in not using a bigger name for his partner.  Maybe Peña got the role as a result of playing Maggie Gyllenhaal's husband in WTC.  Whatever.  It was spot-on casting.

Roman Vasyanov's photography was another star of the film.  It was sharp and quick, darting from scene-to-scene, face-to-face, offering a compelling, urgent and taut look at all the proceedings.  Writer-director Ayer knows a little something about the LAPD and  South L.A. and films such as Training Day, S.W.A.T., Street Kings and Harsh Times (some he wrote, some directed, some both) are a testament to that.

Do we need to speak of the language?  The F-word isn't so much used as detonated.  I'm not using it for the next month so as to speed up my recovery from the blistering my ears suffered.  I do feel validated by the use of the word dude, which seemingly spills out of my mouth any time I'm around others.  It appears that cop partners say it all the time, too.

Included are two important scenes toward the end of the film, which involve shootouts in one form or another that are just so over-the-top in that the spray of bullets don't kill or even much injure others.  I hate seeing such B-movie cheesiness in an otherwise very good film.  Then there's a scene looking very tacked-on at the end that I don't understand at all.  Guys, what was that about?

Wonderful cop movie.

NEXT POSTING:  Coming in October

1 comment:

  1. Okay - as usual, you and I are on about the same page, movie-wise. Let me help you out just a little bit, though. The spray-and-pray was a fairly accurate portrayal of what really happens in most real-life gunfights. Lotsa lead flies, few folks dies. (yeah, I meant to say it that way - it just sounds so "Street!"). Rarely in news articles about shoot-outs does one run across an accurate count of how many rounds were fired by whom. If you were, however, to get hold of the official analysis (think "CSI") of a shoot-out, you'd see that while there may have been a lot of bullets fired, there was little human damage done.