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End of Watch

November 30, 2012
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This isn’t the sort of film I would normally choose to watch, but it’s enough for a night out in Portsmouth with Abs and Tom the Dental Student.

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End of Watch is about two officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Michael Peña). Told largely through handycam and POV camera angles (Ostensibly for Taylor’s film class), it focuses on their friendship and their increasingly high-stakes run-ins with a Latino drug cartel.

The plot is rather episodic in nature. The film opens with one such caper, with the two cops in pursuit of a speeding car, before being fired upon by (and returning fire to) their perpetrators. High adrenaline adventures such as house fires and human trafficking are interspersed with routine patrols and the personal lives of the two friends and partners.

Sitting quite comfortably in the “found footage” style of film-making, the film is a novel way of telling this kind of story. Instead of engaging the audience at an intellectual level with clever camera angles and focus, it goes straight for the visceral interaction, grabbing the watcher and putting them firmly in the middle of the action. Is it engaging? Hell yes!

The story is nothing incredible. It’s about two cops who are best friends. If you can’t see the inevitable climax already, you need an eye exam. However, Gyllenhaal and Peña sell this film with a really strong chemistry. Yes, they are the unfailingly moral protagonists we are supposed to root for but they also have their share of light and humorous moments, shooting the breeze in their patrol car.

This is a gritty, tough, alpha-male cop film that isn’t afraid to have a heart. And who needs brains? A novel, unusual form of camera-work and strong central dynamic allows this film to aim a bit higher than average. It’s not my kind of film but at least I enjoyed watching it.

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