Gangland L.A.–prime locale for every story about murder, drugs, corrupt cops, and the destruction of the American dream. Yet, in a striking reversal that fabulously contradicts the image created by the film’s ad campaign, End of Watch veers off the traditional path and rides the thin blue line against the grain. Slightly crippled by its reality driven visuals, End of Watch still ends up as a refreshing take on the lives of city cops.
Back on the streets after a review board deems their recent shooting incident a clean procedure, Officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena) settle right back into their routines. Moonlighting as a student of law, Brian’s course structure requires a creative class be completed. Bringing a camera along everywhere he goes, Brian figures a film about the real life of L.A. street beaters would make the perfect project. Monotonous squad car chatter, department meetings, car chases, and home invasions; Brian captures it all. The cameras (as well as clip cameras attached to their uniforms) never stop rolling, even as Taylor and Zavala find themselves dug deep in the business of powerful drug lord.
In an attempt to play as a more honest version of Cops, End of Watch employs a pitifully unimaginative hand held style that induces a headache 10 minutes into the film. Brian’s hand held camcorder and clip on cameras are bad enough, but even every gang member seems to have someone with a video camera running at all times, it’s unrealistic and confusing at best. The result is a film shot by a rabid squirrel with a camera strapped to its back, set loose on an unsuspecting public. If you’ve never experienced vertigo and are curious, just buy a ticket to see End of Watch. It’s understandable why the choice was made to shoot the film in this manner, but it’s a crying shame because the story aspect of End of Watch is fairly interesting.
The first 20 minutes of the film leads the audience to believe they are heading down an all too familiar place, but as time goes on things begin to change. While Taylor and Zavala exhibit a certain testosterone driven persona, they are nothing else but extremely good cops. Barring an early scene in place to make you feel these guys are up to no good, these two officers stick to procedure, don’t take advantage of others, risk their own lives–simply because it’s their job. They’re the walking epitome of law enforcement at its best. They have dead to rights situations where they could easily shoot a suspect and be lauded as heroes for doing so, but the cuffs come out instead. It’s a side of law and order films rarely show, because the crooked cop is a bigger draw. End of Watch is a movie everyone can appreciate, but this is the Holy Grail for cops.
End of Watch is one of the few movies that I think actually would have benefited from an even more unstructured delivery with less of traditional story line. Still, the story presented is a wonderful view of the police most people believe doesn’t exist anymore. The shaky, uncontrollable madness of the camera work aside, End of Watch offers enough to warrant your attendance.
Rating: 3 out of 5 ‘Staches