Thursday, October 4, 2012

End of Watch - Theatrical Review

Release Date: September 21, 2012

Watcha gun, whatcha gun, whatcha gonna do when they come for you? You're going to go see this fantastic film as soon as possible. That's whatcha gonna do.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: Harkins 16 Chino Hills
Time: 7:15 pm September 24, 2012   
Projector Type: Digital 2D   
Film Rating: R
Film Runtime: 1 hr 56 min
Studio: Open Road

Loves: Story and character development over action    
Likes: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick   
Neutral: The POV style that pervades much of the film   
Hates: Nothing   
L.A.P.D. cops that aren't dirty?: Yep, these guys are on the straight and narrow

Officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) are two South Central patrol cops who have a yearning to find bigger busts in their district after nearly four years of patrol duty. Their prayers are answered as the Mexican cartel begin using their city for a number of illegal activities which provides the two officers with a series of high profile busts. With each new bust however they begin to draw unwanted attention to themselves and despite warnings from fellow law enforcement organizations and street contacts, the two friends continue to pursue their aspirations for recognition until they both find themselves as targets for assassination.

Director David Ayer's new film, which is a sort of mixture of the old reality show COPS and a much more down to Earth realistic portrayal of the buddy cop scenario seen in countless other movies, is a cinematic experience that will seem overly familiar to any fans of the cop drama genre, but is also one of the rare examples of the over saturated genre done with an immense amount of respect to those who wear the badge while also never glorifying them to the ridiculous extremes we have come to expect from it.

Taylor and Zavala's many car conversations are a real highlight of the film.

Despite the constant reminder of impending doom, there is no real narrative we follow. This is simply an intimate look at the professional and personal lives of these two police officers. We see them with their friends and family living their lives just like us,  except that they put their lives on the line each time they put that uniform on. What ultimately sells the audience on these guys though is that from the first moment we see them together they are an instantly likable duo, throwing jabs at each other like long time friends often do and trying to build a safe and fruitful environment for their families. These are the type of cops you want patrolling your neighborhood and the type of guys you would probably want to hang out with.

It was also extremely refreshing to see that the filmmakers didn't find it necessary to portray these two guys (or any of the cops in the film for that matter) as corrupt or straddling the line of corruption, which is a cliche used far too often. If they come across a bucket full of cash, they turn it in and do the paperwork on it with a wink and a smile. It's not that they are portrayed as saints either, they do some questionable things over the course of events we see but they still abide by the laws they have sworn to uphold. They aren't so much in a grey area as they are in a survival area in which they do what they must only when their lives and safety are at stake. If it means using a little excessive force then that is what has to happen.

Seeing their personal lives really helps you care for these guys.

Then you have the job itself, seeing these guys go out on patrol and seeing all the crazy shit they must deal with on a minute to minute basis is an eye opening and even shocking experience at times. One moment in particular involving two police officers in distress will most likely illicit some gasps from the audience. Calls they answer range from missing children, noise disturbances, fires and of course a few homicides from time to time. What ultimately makes the suspense of every single moment we follow them into a dark alleyway, kick in a door and enter a strange house or approach a dangerous suspect work is that we got to know these guys and bond with them.

We got to watch Zavala's newborn baby come into the world. We got to watch playboy Taylor find true love in his relationship with Janet (the adorable Anna Kendrick) and discover his true self. We got to watch them be the best friends that they are and how much they care for not only their fellow officers but also the citizens they protect. It never gets overly sentimental or melodramatic, it has a level of authenticity rarely seen in film and by letting us become invested in their lives, it makes all the intense moments out on the streets work to an alarming degree.

They see some horrible atrocities while on the job.

That is the principle reason the third act works as well as it does. When these guys come under fire, it isn't about the action or adrenaline, its about whether or not these guys will come out alive. The crazy thing is that "End of Watch" doesn't do anything really revolutionary with how it develops its story or characters. About the only aspect to which it can be given unadulterated praise is its ability to implement key components that should be a part of every film and doing it all extraordinarily well.

Any nitpicks such as the slightly annoying POV (point of view) perspective and handheld camera movements or that most of the events that go down aren't anything that this genre hasn't seen before is either forgiven or forgotten by the time the finale rolls around. This film is a true testament to how much mileage any story in any genre can get out of simply developing their characters and letting the audience become attached to them. Filled with stellar performances across the board and an authentic feel missing from other films in this genre, this comes as a high recommendation for anyone that would like to be reminded what a great movie comprises of. It may not get recognized come awards season but anyone who sees it will instantly recognize the powerful and unforgettable experience that is "End of Watch".

When they come under fire it is a battle for survival.





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