Saturday, March 15, 2014

End of Watch

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena in End of Watch create one of the realest relationships that I've ever seen on screen. The actors spent 5 months together and on ride alongs with real LAPD cops in preparation for their roles as street cops Brian Taylor and Miguel Zavala. They feel like partners, annoying each other and throwing racial insults at one another, but with an indefinable and infallible brotherly love. As they stumble from car chases to burning buildings to drug cartel dangers to their wives/girlfriends (Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez, who are both terrific) these two are partners. They're almost not even individual people, it doesn't feel natural when only one is on the screen, they need to go together in a way I've not seen in any other cop movie.
The plot follows the partners as Taylor shoots from a handheld camera for an elective film class he's taking while going to law school. He gets tiny cameras to put on he and Zavala's uniforms so that he can make his documentary. Writer/director David Ayer shoots most of the movie this way, but he doesn't completely commit to it, thankfully. So we get many shots that aren't pov from the cops cameras, but Ayer shoots everything hand held so we still get that feeling. It works better than I would've anticipated, and I think it's because he rarely resorts to shaky cam, which has sadly become synonymous with "hand held" over the last few years. It's a terrifically shot and edited movie. 

End of Watch's plot is nothing new really, but the characters are what brings it alive. It's sometimes brutal, always vulgar (allegedly the 6th most curse words in cinema history, in a movie under 2 hours long), but always fascinating and exciting. Gyllenhaal and Pena can't get praise enough for their work. These guys feel like real cops, not movie cops. That realism hits hard because it points out how fake every other movie cop feels. They feel like types or like characters and not like real people. Taylor and Zavala felt real, and I loved the journey they took us on in their movie, one of the best of 2012 that I'm sad I didn't catch up to sooner.

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