Film Review – End Of Watch

End Of Watch (MA)

Directed by: David Ayer

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera

Two and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

What happens when found footage and buddy cop films start to show signs of wear and tear? They get stitched together of course. Like any sewing enthusiast that wants to give their scraps of material a new life by piecing them together to make a new throw rug, End of Watch takes the two sub genres and runs them under a needle and thread. Hoping that this fresh but simple mash-up will disguise the overused and frayed story templates is not enough to justify its existence. Like that patched together throw rug, many that have seen it will soon forget it is there.

A sort-of day in the life of a LA cop, End of Watch is the story of young officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) as they patrol the mean streets of southern Los Angeles. Our access to their work routine is through a video camera and a couple of clip-on lenses that Brian brings along for a film project he is working on. A quick throwaway explanation in the establishing minutes of the movie, but never fleshed out and only ever briefly mentioned later when he is told to turn the camera of by his superiors. But who ever demands logic and consistency in a movie, right?

The pair spend most of their time patrolling, talking about sex and relationships, having a laugh. We witness some mundane house checks that lead to gruesome discoveries and a couple of car chases. Not only do we have access to their work lives, but also their personal lives as Brian’s cameras are switched on at home to capture his girlfriend Janet (Anna Kendrick) and is taken to Mike’s wedding, where he marries his sweetheart Gabby (Natalie Martinez) and the birth of their child. But when they pull over a member of a drug cartel for hanging a CD on his rear vision mirror, they find an abundance of drugs and guns, which gets the attention of the gang that owns them. Luckily that gang is also recording their exploits, so we know that they have targeted our heroes.

End of Watch wants to educate us that policing is tough work, the LA ghetto is a dangerous hell hole and having a family raises the stakes. But we already know, we have been told all of this before. There is little here to justify the found footage set up, other than to put a novel spin on some ordinary buddy cop plotting. But even the found footage technique is constantly betrayed, with shots seemingly coming from cameras or recording devices that no one in the film is carrying.

Punctuated with some tense sequences and graphic imagery, these work on the beat vignettes are mostly boring, driven by alarmingly dull conversations and unimaginative plotting. The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Pena is the highlight; their bright screen presence makes up for their repetitive dialogue. This stitched together film is barely a patch on other, better cop and found footage films.

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