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Published: 2012-09-21 - 09:09:39
Movies : Reviews

End of Watch Review

By Mark Grady

Cop Out

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The LAPD has long been saddled with a reputation for corruption and brutality. Whether deserved or not, this image, combined with the hard-bitten war-on-the-streets feeling that Hollywood typically highlights in its men and women in blue, makes for a virtually limitless supply of great stories. With such a goldmine at its disposal, that makes it all the more disappointing when a movie like "End of Watch" fails to find an interesting or new angle and instead flails around disjointedly, feeling more like a public service message than a well-developed story.

Focusing on partners Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal, "Love and Other Drugs") and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena, "Tower Heist") as they patrol the mean streets, "End of Watch" goes for something of a 'year in the life of a cop' feel, which is interesting at times, but lacks any real feeling of movement. To be sure, things happen, shootouts occur, Taylor meets, falls in love, and marries Janet (Anna Kendrick, "Up in the Air"), but it all seems to be happening around them, without any sense that the central characters are affected. They have occasional moments of self-realization, but then a scene later they're back to their old selves. It feels as if writer-director David Ayer ("Training Day", "Street Kings") wrote and shot a heap of scenes, threw them down a flight of stairs, and cut them together in the order that they landed.

The shame of it is: some of those scenes are great. Ayer definitely knows how to shoot tension, and there are plenty of edge of the seat moments that seem to accurately reflect the adrenaline, fear, and raw danger of putting on the uniform and spending every day patrolling a neighborhood full of people who could quickly and easily kill you. Those great moments are offset, unfortunately, by an overreliance on hand-held camera (a common problem these days) in the typical effort to try and simulate the actual disorientation that takes place during, say, a fistfight. This is made so much the worse by having Mr. Gyllenhaal's character carry a video camera around with him frequently, giving Ayer more of an excuse to overuse that filming technique.

Some of the smaller moments also work. Mr. Gyllenhaal and Mr. Zavala have a very comfortable chemistry and their banter, both goofy and serious, as they cruise the streets, is some of the most enjoyable parts of the movie. Ms. Kendrick does cute and bubbly well, though her character has absolutely no depth to speak of. The rest of the cast are pretty much cardboard cut-outs, including fellow officer Van Hauser (David Harbour, "Quantum of Solace"), who seems to have an interesting backstory, none of which actually gets addressed in this movie.

And that's probably the biggest failing of "End of Watch" - you never really get to know any of the characters. What motivates them? What keeps them up a night? These questions get neither asked nor answered.

What did you think?

Movie title End of Watch
Release year 2012
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary Gritty LA cop movie fails to find an interesting or new angle and instead flails around disjointedly.
View all articles by Mark Grady
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