Review by Tyler Lamb.
End of Watch is a new movie from writer/director David Ayer (Training Day, The Fast and the Furious) starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko, Source Code) and Michael Peña (Crash, Lincoln Lawyer). The movie follows cops Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Peña) who work in the South Side department of the LAPD who seem to always get into the heat of all the action and are always trying to come out the heroes.
Writing a quick plot synopsis might be the hardest part about this review. I’m not sure if I just missed something, but it seemed that most of the things that happened in the movie were not connected at all. Yes, there were a few things obviously connected, but the events seemed to happen so far from each other that it was almost hard to realize they were related. The story about these characters was not bad, I was just waiting for a plot to start to get the movie rolling, which made the 109-minute runtime feel twice as long as that.
Another problem this movie seems to suffer from is an identity crisis. Ayer is trying to get across a gritty realism that these cops have to live by using the “found footage” style of shooting. This means that most of the footage in the movie is from a character’s actual camera. This is where the problem lies; notice I said MOST of the footage. For some reason half of the footage is clearly, and sometimes not so clearly, not from a character’s personal camera. I get the feeling Ayer called in sick a couple days, told a friend to cover, forgetting to mention that it’s supposed to be a found footage movie, and when Ayer got into the editing room and saw it said, “eh, whatever.” It makes you wonder why we are watching personal footage sometimes and why certain characters are filming all together. Yes, Gyllenhaal does get asked why he is carrying a camera around and he says something along the lines of “for my class.” This will be the ONLY time you hear a thing about Gyllenhaal’s character taking any sort of class. Also, this movie seems to cover a span of time of well over a year. How long is this class? Did he fail it or something? In all honesty, Ayer could have just had the character respond to the question with “because…uhhhh…plot device.”
Now, given the spotty script and directing, Gyllenhaal and Peña deliver great performances. This is the only, and I mean only, redeeming quality of the movie. Their chemistry is so believable as not only co-workers but as best friends that sometimes it feels like they are just filming the two talking to each other. They do a great job in getting across this gritty realism that I’m sure Ayer was aiming for, but failed to himself. Unfortunately, their performances were not enough to save the movie from its overall poor delivery.
Starring-Jack Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick
*1/2 out of 4