End of Watch (2012)

Better than average

Content written by Tony Macklin. Originally published on September 29, 2012 on tonymacklin.net.

If you leave before the end of End of Watch - about 3/4 of the way through - you'll see a much better movie.

For much of its length, End of Watch is one of the stronger movies of the year. It's a taut, human drama that stresses character and intimacy.

Then it goes awry. It brings back a Latino gang that has a one-word-obscenity vocabulary and can't shoot straight. They blow up the screenplay and everything else in sight.

One of the big questions is - why did writer/director David Ayer lose his nerve? He had everything going for him, and then he turned a very human film into a cartoon.

I half expected Wile E. Coyote to show up and have his head blown off. I think I did see a kitchen sink spouting an f-bomb fly by.

Up until the climax and the anti-climax and the anti-anti-climax, Ayer had created a unique movie experience. Using the concept of one of the cops making a movie, Ayer captured a convincing sense of immediacy and reality.

The camera work - ably done by Roman Vasyanov - jerks, bumps, and grinds as it connects us with the experiences of the cops in South Central L.A. The camera even turns us upside down.

What grounds End of Watch is the relationships of the characters, especially Officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Officer Miguel Zavala (Michael Pena) - "Z" to his partner.

Despite their harrowing environment, they smile a lot. They are a happy-go-lucky pair. They kid, banter, and discuss their different lives. But they share the value of being good cops who stand up against evil.

There still are angels in Los Angeles.

In the havoc around them, the two cops excel. The film has several tense and emotional scenes. One of the memorable scenes is when the two "heroes" try to save small children in a fiery house.

There's also a compelling scene when Z fights a criminal because he called him out. It has an unexpected outcome - both for us and the brawler.

Many of the scenes have a freshness.

Both the cops have positive relationships with women. Taylor falls in love with Janet (Anna Kendrick), and Z is married to a woman he can't live without (Natalie Martinez). The women add to the humanity of the story. The two men talk - often amusingly - about relationships.

End of Watch avoids many of the conventions of other cop movies and goes its own way. But then it veers back to the easy, most conventional of modes.

End of Watch is a moral tale that unfortunately misplaces its truth. That's a hell of an end.


You might be interested in reading my most recent reviews, all of my reviews from this year, or all of my reviews from last year.

For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).


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