Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena
Films that live by the found footage gimmick only set themselves up to die by it and here this hip and modern style of filming which has infested every corner of Hollywood’s present generation of directors is in full force of distracting and nonsensical film killer. End of Watch displays an entirely unnecessary and confused devotion to pushing the technique to its possible limits, until its absence of logic and invasiveness undermines what would otherwise have been an entertaining but needlessly over the top Cop drama.
Despite its persistence this style of filming and editing hasn’t been cutting edge since the Blair Witch Project made it de rigour. Yet what Blair Witch had that none of its acolytes seem to bother with is a contained, uncomplicated logic. The point at which the drama has to be repeatedly interrupted in order to explain how the dynamic is working is when it has failed. After obsessively sticking to the idea only to then sporadically abandon it is when it becomes unwatchable. Normally this style merely frustrates and makes you wonder how decent directors can be so deluded to think they are wowing anybody. But End of Watch cannot leave the idea alone after the early set up and every time the viewer is made aware of its presence it becomes an obstacle to the immersion, ironic considering the original allure of the found footage genre.
While the idea is in full swing the justifications for each camera jump become increasingly tenuous and counter productive to the realistic docu-style many of the early scenes are trying to create. Gangsters happily record themselves carrying out drive by shootings and drug fuelled parties. As the action hots up and the pace makes it difficult to keep up with the changes of perspective (or perhaps easier to get away with), the camera switches from POV to 3rd person, or 3rd person but filmed in a 1st person way. Occasionally, when characters are having sex or being shot at, it is an unidentifiable mixture of all of these.
This calamitous favouring of style over substance is a real shame because; while no means being a classic, End of Watch is an enjoyable enough film. Most notably in the first half before the partners get drawn into the heat of the LA underground there are many scenes of earnest banter and evidence of thorough research which has gone into the small, often ignored details.
Following the two ambitious best buddies we share in their day to day trials as they struggle with the delicate balance of gaining the community’s trust and respect, and using violent intimidation to assert their authority.
This is a reality which firmly favours the perspective of the cops and as such there are plenty of scenes of macho chest pumping, hand clasping, and grown men calling each other ‘bro’ every ten minutes. The various working class denizens who have to be dealt with are brushed over as tragic, broken people, or cartoon psycho villains called colourful things such as “Big Evil”.
Despite the realism of the Cops perspective End of Watch has clearly taken many influences from Breaking Bad, which it tries to emulate as much as it can; from the over the top stereotypes of the Mexican gangsters, to the unpredictable switching of action from mundanity of everyday to explosive shoot outs. But without any of Breaking Bad’s dark sense of humour and the supposed realism of the hand held footage, it doesn’t fit at all well and pushes End of Watch too far into the macho bullshit category.
Without dropping any spoilers the climatic ending stoops to the lowest levels of Hollywood nonsense clichés, and close scrutiny will leave you scratching your head in disbelief.
If you can watch ten minutes without bursting a blood vessel at the infuriating camera work you may thoroughly enjoy End of Watch. By no means a good film but it is certainly worth a watch before the found footage trend finally dies its slow death and this starts to look terribly dated.