End of Watch recap (part II)
Not the best of weekends to be without internet connection! All I can do at this point is add some photographic evidence that the End of Watch premiere at the TIFF was great fun and a huge success.
But before the photos, enjoy these 6 brand new clips (source) from the film as well as an iVillage exclusive featurette. I wonder if maybe this promotion is giving too much away with all these clips but I guess this is the final rush (the film opens on Sep 21).
Excerpts from a selection of reviews, both good and bad (the film has been collecting mixed reviews so far, but the positive ones are many and encouraging).
Ayer shoots in zippy style, switching between an in-car recorder reminiscent of pop cop TV, mini cameras attached to the actors’ lapels and – somewhat improbably – a camcorder that Gyllenhaal’s character has snuck past his superiors. There’s a tangle in the narrative here: are we watching found footage or a glossy actioner? Ayer seems happy to settle for a bit of both. Taylor’s camera is always on, always steady at the crucial moment – even in the fiercest of street fights.
You could fill the charge sheet with such plausibility issues, yet End of Watch is a hard one to take down. The director has talked about the film as a thought-piece – a comment on inner-city communities forced to police violence with violence, but it’s not to be taken that seriously. Switch on the siren, put the pedal to the floor. Revel in the pace and passion of a film-maker policing a field that is now unquestionably his.
Unfortunately for Ayer, his emphasis on ritualistic, gruesome violence is the only thing believable about his ill-conceived picture. Simultaneously clichéd and monotonous, Ayer’s film is only convincing when it’s trained on chest-thumping, sociopathic behavior. But even when the sociopaths in question are cops, the characters played by the atypically threatening Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña never feel like their behavior is so dangerous or so sophomorically vile that it’s unjustifiable. Ayer likes his monsters too much to really do much with them beyond show how potentially dangerous they are and then valorize them for unwittingly not crossing a line and becoming full-on thugs with badges.
Like a knife in the eye, “End of Watch” cuts past the cliches of standard police procedurals, serving instead as a visceral ride-along with two thrill-seeking cops (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, both terrific) covertly documenting their beat in South Central L.A. Faux-found-footage approach already feels a little dated, but amplifies the authenticity in what feels like a cross between “Cops” and first-person shooter-style vidgames. Sincerely dedicated “for all that fight evil so we may not know it,” David Ayer’s moving tribute to the men in blue should earn its share of green once word of mouth kicks in.
The relationship between Taylor and Zavala is natural. They’re not too movie-clever, but they do creature a strong bond. They talk about their relationships and how Latin people do this and white people do that. There’s some mild homophobia that’s probably realistic in that world, but not insensitive for modern audiences.
I really didn’t want these guys to get shot. Not because they have wives and kids or all the stuff that’s set up, but just because they’re human beings. That’s the greatest achievement of End of Watch, that it wasn’t just the cop movie trappings of good guys and bad guys. I just didn’t want the deadly drama of the street to overtake these characters I was watching.
The combination of found footage and police bravado was a little off-putting for about 20 minutes or so. Then when the boys calmed down a little and did actual police work, I was hooked. The most powerful scenes are still the ones that unfold before a stationary camera. You could have gotten more out of staging scenes with an objective camera in single takes. Half of the first person footage is fish-eyed, not a good look in my opinion. And I don’t know who was videotaping Taylor sleeping with his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick), perv.
While we don’t see the cartels, we do meet some American aspirants to their level of terror-fueled success as the film eavesdrops on some Latino youths called the Curbside Gang. If these killers look more like sketches for post-Cartel gang stereotypes instead of believable humans, that irritant is compounded by the fact that they, too, are filming everything they do. Scenes of self-documentation are so common in the movie’s beginning (is End of Watch a misnomer when everybody’s watching himself?) that we expect Ayer to make something of it in the end.
Ayer drops that ball, if he ever meant to carry it somewhere. And in the last 15 minutes of the film, he burns up some of the credibility he established by not pushing extreme situations too far earlier on. But he has managed to involve us in the lives of his characters — whose storylines may be familiar (as in Taylor’s romance with smart outsider Janet, played charmingly by Anna Kendrick), but are played out in a world that for the most part feels real.
With his screenplay for the Denzel Washington Oscar-winner Training Day and his subsequent features Harsh Times and Street Kings, writer-director David Ayer has meticulously chronicled the dangerous, ethically slippery world of the Los Angeles Police Department. His new film, End Of Watch, doesn’t break much new ground on the subject, but it’s nonetheless an intensely rendered and superbly acted drama.
This character drama succeeds largely thanks to Gyllenhaal and Pena’s camaraderie as partners who are able to mock each other’s cultural differences but still be as close as brothers. With a lived-in authenticity, Ayer’s leads reveal how these two cops share a bond that no one, not even their significant others, can truly understand. End Of Watch has the twitchy anxiety and random violence of a war film, and Gyllenhaal shows some of the same rugged strength he brought to Jarhead in his portrayal of the cocky, sarcastic Taylor. (Pena is just as funny and effortlessly commanding as his co-star.) Even if much of End Of Watch is familiar, Gyllenhaal and Pena tackle the material with gusto, complementing Ayer’s hard-edged worldview.
If Mr. Ayer’s goal, after producing a series of “dirty cop” movies, was to craft a film that shows the low-key honor that most police officers possess, then he’s done a damn good job of it. End of Watch covers a whole lot of emotional ground for such a “basic” cop story (the plot: our heroes stumble upon a human trafficking ring in South Central), and the result is a suspenseful, intense, and surprisingly touching ode to America’s inner-city peacekeepers.
There are many more reviews that I could quote, again, both good and bad, but alas I’ve got a train to catch. I missed all the fun this weekend but I know there’s so much more to look forward to. In the meantime, this picture below makes me sigh with contentment: these guys got a standing ovation at the TIFF and until I see the film I’ll keep this picture in mind and forget about the rest.