End of Watch
Premise: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are a couple of LAPD beat cops who work the rougher areas of town. They love their jobs. But as they start to screw up the plans of a Mexican drug cartel, they become targets of a brutal wave of violence... ...in the last 10 minutes of the movie.
-Except for a delivery of one of Gyllenhaal's lines ("Why do they call you big evil...?" [I just noticed it's in the trailer]), the acting is pretty decent and seems pretty natural. The whole movie was grounded with realism, as that was sort of the point of it. Ya know, until the end when realism goes out the door for a bunch of action and melodrama movie clichés. But Michael Pena has always been a legit actor.
-One dude gets a knife stuck in his eye. Yay violence!
-A lot of the movie, since it's so "real", is just the two leads talking in their cop car while driving. Sounds boring, right? Well, these usually result in the funniest parts of the movie. There were a bunch of funny parts. This movie actually worked better as a comedy than anything else, even though it wasn't really a comedy.
-The action is decent, but never really great. It's more good than bad, but some of it is bad.
-It starts off pretty interesting with a high tension car chase. COPS TV show style.
-OK, here's the thing... I didn't realize that this was going to be a "found footage" film. Or maybe it's just more of a gimmicky handheld film. Frankly, I don't know what it wanted to be. Here's what I noticed about the shooting of this movie:
Starts out being shot on the squad car camera.
Then it becomes told from the point of view of Gyllenhaal's camcorder. He's says it's for a community college film class he's taking, or something. I couldn't tell if he was joking or not. If he's IS joking, then I don't understand the explanation of the camcorder.
Then he pins little cameras on his uniform and Pena's uniform, so now they have constant POV shots available. Again... why is the character doing this?
Then Gyllenhaal's girlfriend is looking directly into the camera and talking to it in a video diary kind of way at one point.
Then some Mexican drug lords are filming their crime spree (?), and you know they are supposed to be filming it in the world of the movie, because one of them says "Get that camera out of my face". They are on their way to drive-by shoot a rival gang.
THE RIVAL GANG IS ALSO TAPING THEMSELVES TALKING TO EACH OTHER FOR NO REASON, RIGHT BEFORE THEY GET SHOT UP. CONVENIENT.
[at this point, about 20-30 minutes in, the lady sitting two rows behind me said to her husband "Why does everybody have a f****** camera?" Good call, lady.]
There are dashboard cameras in the cop car while they talk.
At one point Jake Gyllenhaal is looking through binoculars. We then get a POV from the binoculars. Are we lead to believe that the binoculars have a camera in them??? I DON'T GET IT.
During action scenes it will be all POV for a little while, then it will show the two guys in the same frame, with the camera 5 feet away from them. Sometimes during the action scenes, they just completely bail on the handheld camera gimmick and just shoot it like a regular movie... Wait, what?
During the wedding scene, the leads are talking to each other at a table, and there's a handheld camera shooting them from the other side of the table, cutting back and forth between the two of them. Was the wedding videographer just getting a little too intimate? I DON'T UNDERSTAND THE CAMERA CHOICES. It's like the film never fully committed to the found footage gimmick, and decided to shoot it like a regular movie when convenient, and it just makes the whole thing a cinematic pile of garbage.
-There are wedding scenes, and birthday party scenes, and baby birth scenes throughout the whole movie; in between all the action. They pretty much destroy ALL tension the film was trying to build up every time they cut to one of these. And the wedding scene was super long. What is this... The Deer Hunter?
-I couldn't get a grasp on the time frame of this movie. If you go by the fact that at the beginning of the movie Gyllenhaal is going on his second date with his girlfriend, then near the end of the movie is his wedding... Let's say they are a fast couple (even though the movie says she has traditional values, so she's NOT), and they fall in love and decide to get married relatively quickly. They have a very well-planned wedding, and even before that there is a discussion about whether they should move in or not... So, I don't know, even at an unrealistically fast situation, there must have been at least a year of time that went by during this film...? Am I right? Which is weird, because the actual drama in the film, with the Mexican cartel and the Latino gangs targeting them; all seems like it happens within like a two-week time period... I'm starting to think that this isn't a well thought-out movie.
-Four gangsters with automatic rifles firing non-stop at two open targets in a wide open room for 15 seconds. And they only got hit with one bullet? In the hand?
-The bad guys were underdeveloped. Which sucked, because some of them were actually entertaining.
-I felt no emotion whatsoever regarding anything that happened in this movie. And I would be the first to tell you if a movie made my eyes tear up. Beasts of the Southern Wild made my eyes water! I'm human!
-20 minutes too long. And there's easy, obvious places to cut it down, too!
-Cliché ending for a movie that wasn't supposed to be cliché.
-And then they tacked on an epilogue that provided absolutely no insight. It was just a funny story, but it wasn't enlightening or anything. It felt like a deleted scene that accidentally got moved into the timeline in the editing software. An attempt to further humanize the characters I suppose? I guess, but it still seemed like a random story for the end of the film.
-Having had to type it several times during this review, I realize I hate the word "Gyllenhaal". Just look at it. It's a goofy lookin' name.
Final Thoughts: I have no idea what people are thinking when they say this is such a great movie. I saw it based on good word of mouth, and I was let down on nearly every level. I don't understand what people are seeing that I'm not. It was a complete diarrhea of terrible camera choices. It was distractingly bad cinematography. In addition to the fact that I'm not sure what the point of this movie was. Was it just to give people a better respect of police officers? Doesn't every movie with a cop protagonist do that? Die Hard made me feel more compassion for cops than this did. The two leads were kind of just bros. They were hot heads who got angry too easily, and they put their sunglasses on the back of their heads like Guy Fieri. End of Watch was a failure on an aesthetic, entertainment, and character development level. It was watchable, but not for $10. Save it for Redbox. Maybe you'll see it how everyone else saw it, and actually enjoy it, as it has a 92% audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. I guess I'm one of the 8%.
4.5 out of 10
Love your reviews. This made me laugh.
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Thanks, Stephen! It's usually more fun to write reviews of the movies I didn't like!
The shift from practical, found footage, back to a conventional cameraman POV was one of the few problems in District 9, which otherwise was really good.
End Of Watch's cameras would have made perfect sense if you started the movie by setting up that they are being recorded for a TV documentary show like "COPS". This would also let you add a live cameraman with the third person omnicient POV in the appropriate places. He could have been a third character as well. This setup could easily explain a lot of the cop's behavior, making one too reckless because he wants to impress the lens.
Why, oh why do they not just wire me tons of money to make these easy script fixes?