The Monocle – “End of Watch”

Directed by: David Ayer
Written by: David Ayer
Released: September 21st, 2012
Theatre watched at: Century 8, North Hollywood

Anyone who really knows me, a list that depressingly could make even the smallest “Post-It” note feel better about itself, understands that I have an extreme fascination with the modern gimmick of “Found Footage” films, or what can alternatively be described as “epileptically-nauseating-films-shot-as-if-from-a-cheap-videocamera-by-a-technology-challenged-father-shooting-his-5-year-old’s-birthday-party” (i.e. Cloverfield, Chronicle, Paranormal Activity). I mean, how could you not admire the amount of creativity matched with the relatively cheap budget that goes into make these films? There’s something just so down-to-the-bone intriguing and fun about trying to fool an audience to thinking something is more real than a traditional film when it’s just as fake as a traditional film; it’s like double the fake-ness to re-re-create reality! Two fakes make a real? Anyways, so naturally, after seeing the trailer for this film, I felt the familiar, cynical tickle to go see it almost entirely just for the sake of wondering how this particular filmmaker will utilize this genre’s techniques for this subject.

David Ayer, known largely for his writing and occasional directing on popular cop films such as S.W.A.T., Harsh Times, and the genre classic Training Day (that got Denzel Washington’s Oscar win), grabs the reins for a third time directing End of Watch, a film about two LAPD cops who get in over their heads on a Mexican cartel’s drug trafficking activities and find themselves in the cross hairs. After having seen Ayer’s Harsh Times and Street Kings, I didn’t expect awesomeness, but I have to say…this film is more than just awesome, I loved it, and I think it’s one of my personal favorite cop films of all time.

End of Watch is an engrossing, adrenaline rush of well crafted action, intense/scary moments, humorous dialogue, and at the center of it all, a heartfelt bromance that is anchored by the absolute perfect chemistry and strong acting by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael, I’m sorry I couldn’t find the accent on the “n,” Pena. Now, the motive behind shooting the film this way is that Police Officer Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) needs a project  for some college art course (which I can only imagine would be a film class) and decides to document what is, I’m guessing, the life of a police officer. Inadvertently, his partner and best friend/”brother,” Police Officer Mike Zavala (Pena) also stars along side Taylor because they go on watch together. “Where?” do you ask? In Los Angeles, South Central- the “ghetto,” the place you don’t want to be in unless you go out knowing good and well you will probably die, even over eating one of those delicious fruit with chili sauce arrangements.

The camerawork, like all other found footage films, makes for some great unpredictability as you follow these guys on their normal, everyday calls of kicking down doors, shootings criminals, breaking up disputes, finding drugs, etc. (not necessarily in that order) If you’re not on foot with them, we’re in the car driving round, which is the setting for much of the relationship build up we have for these two as they exchange hilarious banter and updates on their lives. Gyllenhaal and the much underrated Pena, really do some excellent work here; you really get to know these guys well and care for the fact that they care for each other like brothers, which is especially important when you’re with that person everyday risking your lives. When you’re with them as they go through some intense situations involving gangsters and illegal matters, it almost turns into a half action half horror film. Yes, the intensity and suspense is that well done here, that the sense of urgency is heart-pounding and makes you just dread what’s behind the door one of them is looking through as the other has to wait.

We also spend a good amount of time in their personal lives, which is a great accomplishment for the screenplay because they are able to fit in so much in just under 2 hours. These moments are much needed, for we see that these two are actually not your usual cops by film standards. Normally, you expect a story with some guys that are either washed up, tied up in debt, and drowning it all away with alcohol. Nope, not these guys, you find that they have a sense of value and morals that keep their lives fairly together, which just adds to their likeability and, ironically, to the realism of it all.

With a plot that is pretty straightforward, you expect cliches and nothing new brought to the table, but the film feels surprisingly fresh because of its ability to constantly keep you on your feet during the tense moments and building your emotions for these two cops during the calmer scenes. The only real problem with the movie is the absolute disregard for it’s own bounds where in some instances the camera clearly goes out Taylor’s documentary perspective and switches, with no apparent reason, to that of another parties’, specifically, the members of the cartel or even just some random floating camera that is meant to give a reverse shot. At these moments I found myself going “What the f*ck?” but ultimately reasoning with “Oh, who cares.”

From the thrilling opening sequence to the emotional ending, this is a film that has a great balance of everything you could want to see at the movies. It’s funny while not being a comedy, emotional but not a full-on drama, fierce but isn’t a straight up action movie, real without being too much of a character piece, and a definite must-see if you’re looking for some great quality entertainment.

Bow Tie Score - 4.0