End of Watch (2012)
Director: David Ayer
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick
Plot: Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.
Genre: Crime / Drama / Thriller
Rating: M18 for strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references, and some drug use.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“If you run away I will chase you, if you fight me I will fight back. If you shoot at me I will shoot back. By law I am unable to walk away. I am a consequence, I am the unpaid bill. I am fate with a badge and a gun.”
Verdict: This gritty and nauseating buddy cop film shot with handheld cameras has a quite satisfying emotional payoff.
Police dramas seem to be more suited for the goggle box, but End of Watch shows us that the big screen treatment can be engrossing too. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as Brian and Mike respectively, this crime-thriller centers on the brotherhood between these two men, suited in blue and armed with revolvers.
They are armed with a camcorder too as we observe their daily routines in and out of their police car. Vulgar bickering between the two can in an instant turn into a high speed chase in pursuit of a rogue car. Their lives are fraught with danger, but their strong bonding motivates them to be effective crime fighters.
Directed and written by David Ayer, who made films where characters rough it out in tough neighbourhoods such as Harsh Times (2005) and Street Kings (2008), End of Watch is not dissimilar in its gritty portrayal of policemen on duty. Brian and Mike are targeted by some sinister criminals who are part of a Mexican drug cartel after they make routine arrests and seize drugs.
The film has a satisfyingly emotional payoff as sacrifices are made in the line of duty. Ayer dedicates his film to those who continue to wear their police badges with honour, and to fallen heroes who have given up their lives to keep their community safe.
By adopting handheld digital cameras as the primarily mode of visual engagement, Ayer gives us an aesthetic that is raw and nauseating. This visual style takes getting used to in the first hour as the shots are often frustratingly unstable. This aesthetic continues in the second hour, but the strength of the dramatic material allows the film to transcend its look.
However, I must admit that Ayer's film would have been much more enjoyable without all that shakiness. That being said, the climatic action sequence, as disorienting as it is, is thrilling to watch.
End of Watch is essentially a buddy cop film. This means that much of the film's success hinges upon the performances and chemistry between the two leads. I must say Gyllenhaal and Pena play their parts superbly, and to a large extent, humanizing the role of police officers as folks with loved ones, but whom are asked to answer a higher call of duty than most in their daily lives.