With the Toronto International Film Festival firmly in our rear view mirrors, movie theatres all across the country are going to start seeing films that debuted at the festival. Out tomorrow in theatres everywhere from our friends at VVS films is an intense police drama that had its world premiere as we are put right next to two Los Angeles cops as they patrol the streets of the city of angels. It’s time for “End of Watch”.
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena and Anna Kendrick
Written and Directed by David Ayer
“End of Watch” puts the audience right in the middle of the chase. Two young LA police officers (Gyllenhaal and Pena) discover a secret that makes them the target of the country’s most dangerous drug cartel. We watch these two young men patrol some of the darkest and most violent corners of South Central Los Angeles as they risk their lives on a daily basis and witness the toll it takes on their families as they put themselves in harm’s way for the greater good.
Writer/director David Ayer has based the bulk of his career around doing films centered around the LAPD; some that he has written have worked (“Training Day”) but when he has stepped into the director’s chair the results haven’t always been as solid (“Harsh Times”) and on “End of Watch” the results admittedly fall somewhere in the middle. Using the ‘movie within a movie’ device to explain away the use of the handheld camera’s it got fairly distracting very early on as the line blurred between what the characters were filming and what the director was actually filming making for some moments in that narrative that got more than a little muddled. Had it been used in much smaller doses it could have come off much more effectively but the quick cuts and shaky cam work that was supposed put in the moment and on the streets actually took us out of it and made us very aware that we were sitting in a movie theatre and never getting the chance to experience any of the emotions that these characters were going through, we as an audience always felt like we were on the outside looking in. That being said there was enough going on in this story to hold the audience’s attention thanks to some fairly strong performances by Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Pena.
As partners on the mean streets of Los Angeles, both Gyllenhaal & Pena have fantastic on screen chemistry together actually making Ayer’s shaky cam style for this film work in their favor. As the semi realistic style of the film seeps into their performances we feel the genuine camaraderie of not only two police officers who are relying on each other to survive another shift but as two friends who will have each other’s back through thick and through thin no matter what and their relationship is the only thing in the entire film where there are any legitimate emotional stakes for the audience to grab on to. Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, Frank Grillo and David Harbour all show up in smaller supporting roles and do a fine job, but it is the likable chemistry between Gyllenhaal & Pena that make this work as well as it does and with them this film could have had some serious problems.
While the visual style of “End of Watch” with its overreliance on the ‘shaky-cam’ style won’t win over a lot of people, it is actually a decent entry into the cop drama genre thanks to some strong work from the films two leads. However, I wouldn’t sit too close to the screen if you catch this in theatre, the further back you sit the better off you’ll be.
3 out of 5 stars.
“End of Watch” is open at theatres all across Canada tomorrow, check with your local listings for show times.
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