DVD Review - End of Watch
Aesthetically, writer-director David Ayer throws on screen a mix of the TV series Cops and the movie series Paranormal Activity. Except, it's an aesthetic that Ayer builds into the plot yet abandons with no explanation. The plot involves Brian Taylor, played by Oscar-nominee Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac), who records himself with a video camera as he goes out on his daily patrols with his partner Mike Zavala, played by Michael Peña (Crash and World Trade Center).
Brian is the guy in movies like Cloverfield (2008) or Chronicle (2012) who is recording everything when he shouldn't be or when others tell him not to do so. Ayer makes a point to reference this about Brian, so much so that the first half and more of this movie doesn't have a single shot that isn't from a camera handheld or setup by Brian. It does open with probably the clearest, most high-definition, dash cam ever, but all other shots are from cameras handled by Brian.
Unfortunately, this makes the movie look ugly. It's uglier even than the average found-footage movie because it's action, so sometimes the camerawork is all over-the-place. Later, Ayer abandons this as an aesthetic. For example, there is a scene where Brian has sex and he's clearly not videotaping himself. Nor is he allowing someone to record him having sex, so it makes no sense for Ayer to have this scene at all.
Speaking of things that make no sense, most of the actions of the two officers make no sense. Or else, their actions are constantly stupid and awful. For no logical reason, Mike fights a guy in that guy's house. Mike is not a firefighter. Yet, he runs into a burning building with no protective gear. Brian acts like he's a detective and breaches protocol time and time again, and it's just sheer recklessness.
This is perhaps meant to endear us to the two officers, but it doesn't. That, and the in-car conversations between the two officers are annoying and do little to endear us to them as well. Their conversations about women and sex are no better than the dumbest of frat boys. Brian does defend women once or twice, but their comments, particularly Mike's range from sexist to homophobic. It's just tedious and annoying.
The conversations, if they can be called that, from the Mexican gangsters are annoying as well. The Mexican gangsters don't speak as they just have every other word be a f-bomb. It becomes like nails on a chalkboard as opposed to interesting dialogue.
Ayer touches upon the animosity at times between Hispanics and African-Americans, but it never goes anywhere. It just ends in a soul-less and moral-less shootout. Leading up to that end, the movie is rather boring. It's supposed to be one shocking bust after another. Again, in the wake of The Shield or Southland, the busts aren't that shocking.
I'm not really sure in the grand scheme of things what these busts mean or what effect they have on the two cops. Ayer might be trying to say something about this area of South Central, which might be how awful or terrible it is. So many other filmmakers and TV makers have said this, so Ayer isn't treading new ground. Therefore, there's nothing to take away.
The one exception is a speech that David Harbour makes. A little bit of trivia, Harbour was featured in Brokeback Mountain alongside Gyllenhaal. Here, Harbour plays Van Hauser, a veteran LAPD cop, one who is clearly jaded and cynical. Van Hauser says, "The LAPD is going to f--- you up the ass. They are going to f--- you, so long and so hard, you are going to want to eat your own gun to make it stop."
In this speech, Van Hauser explicitly lays down that the LAPD will drive its employees to suicide from its relentless abuse. It's almost prophetic in light of the recent, Christopher Dorner case. The film was released theatrically and on DVD before the Dorner case literally exploded in the news, but I'm watching the movie after, so, Dorner was on my mind because everything that Van Hauser claimed was what ended up happening to Dorner. As such, Ayer's character here is spot on. As such, Ayer who has made several films about the LAPD has a lot of truth in his screenplay. This movie, however, is not an indictment of the LAPD for once. It was just weird then to have that Van Hauser speech there.
Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for violence, disturbing images, pervasive language, sexual references and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 49 mins.