Review - 'End Of Watch'
I picked up 'End of Watch' for a measly $3 at my local Buybacks, so yeah, I already knew I was going to get my money's worth even if the film wasn't good, I mean, that's like the cost of a 2-day redbox rental.
'End of Watch' is David Ayer's fifth directorial effort and stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as two L.A. Police officers who work in the dangerous South-Central area of Los Angeles. After the two officers crash a party due to a noise complaint, they inadvertently humiliate and anger a small gang that now looks to exact lethal vengeance on them.
Right from the beginning narration by Officer Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal), you know this film is going to seriously lack subtlety. This is director David Ayer's style and it works for him but with this comes a number of action-movie cliches. This is a buddy-cop film that is told through the POV of chest-cams and camcorders so if you're not into shaky-cam, you may not have a great time with this film. There's a give-and-take for most found-footage films and 'End of Watch' doesn't buck the trend. While they tend to be more realistic and the actors come off more convincingly as real people, there is also not much integrity or artistry on display. This gives the film a somewhat dull look. There's almost nothing visually compelling about it at all. Thankfully the performances are great and the action is well-staged and somehow still in-focus despite the constant camera-jostling.
Ayer was also able to display how horrific cartel gangs are. I found this film just as terrifying as some of the great horror movies released recently. Seriously, gangs are scary and the director capitalizes off of that perfectly. There's one scene where Taylor and Zavala (Pena) stumble upon a rundown shack filled to the brim with drugs and bloody body parts divided and stacked in different piles. These guys make Leatherface look not so bad.
The performances in this film are great and the writing is also pretty solid. Gyllenhaal and Pena are on-point and have an extremely convincing chemistry. They really held this film together and at times made you forget that you were watching a found-footage film. The script is good, depicting events that escalate in danger eventually culminating in a heart-pounding finale. I did find it funny just how many things these two officers just happened to run into. This is alleviated somewhat by months-long gaps in time that are skipped over abruptly and allow these momentous events to be shown in quick succession.
I felt this film would have been better aesthetically if it lost the hand-held aspect, but I also feel like it wouldn't have been as visceral or convincing if it was filmed traditionally. Still, it loses some points for not having an appealing look. However, the film thrives in more important areas like the writing, performances and action. For a low budget, found-footage film; 'End Of Watch' succeeds.