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Cinema review

End of Watch

added: 30 Nov 2012 // release date: 23 Nov 2012
certificate: 15 // director: David Ayer
studio: StudioCanal // film length 109 mins
reviewer: Cihan Narin

End-of-Watch Printable version
Writer and director David Ayer’s filmography is populated by cops and criminals and the grey line between the two groups. From Training Day to Street Kings, the conflict between order and chaos on the streets of LA is fought by fallible people armed to the teeth. End of Watch draws a blood red line between the two groups with clear division.

What separates this film from the run-of-mill cop film is that the point of view for the viewer changes depending on objects in a scene, such as a character holding a pair of binoculars casually in his hand. Suddenly you find yourself looking at the scene through the lens. The concept seems ripe for failure considering how obnoxious over-usage of ‘shaky-cam’ can be in cinema, however Ayer’s direction does not shake the camera needlessly, and puts you in every conceivable angle.

It's most effectively used on the barrel of a gun, and raises tension dramatically due to circumventing conventional cinematic language. Basically two cops knocking on a door is suddenly tense because the camera is not a wide-shot like usual, instead it's somewhere unique leaving you off-balance.

The end result is that you’re kept on your toes, never knowing from which angle or what video format you’ll be witnessing something. The film begins with Jake Gyllenhaal’s character making an informal documentary about his line of work, but soon enough the camera perspective starts to shift around and beyond his own camcorder. It’s inconsistent, but ultimately having the point of view shift around is better than having a forced reason for why everyone in the story is filming everything around him or her.

The first half of End of Watch is an introduction to the daily routine of characters portrayed by Jake Gyllenhaal and the underrated yet ever-dependable Michael Peña, and as the two characters gain success through their hard work, the closer it brings them into contact with a deadly Mexican drug cartel operating in town. Soon enough they find themselves as direct targets, which leads to a blistering climax that stretches tension to breaking point.

This is due to the relationship between Gyllenhaal and Peña, peppered with great camaraderie, which is essential to believing their friendship. When the proverbial poop hits the fan, you’re willing the two to live and fight another day.

End of Watch is not a tacky police recruitment attempt. Police officers, including the main characters, regularly skirt the law themselves, yet the film is clearly from their perspective and portrays them as a united front against the enemy. The LAPD are a large family with never-ending back-up.

The entire cast is brilliant, often making you wonder if some of them were actually plucked directly from the streets of LA, and told to act. Ayer’s direction makes every routine investigation of a crime scene seem like the difference between life and death each time.

The film’s only major flaw is a small hiccup in the resolution where the story pulls its punches, but overall End of Watch is a taut drama directed by a writer at his peak and acted with passion by the cast. Also, watching Jake Gyllenhaal dancing to Salt-N-Pepa is a sight to behold.

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