End of Watch is one of the more uniquely shot films of 2012. It’s a mix of “found footage” style mixed with a gritty tone that Ayer is known for throughout his many cop-centric films. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena turn in great performances and although the story is a bit weak, the character aspects make up for any shortcomings.
Genre(s): Crime, Drama
Universal | R – 109 min. – $34.98 | January 22, 2013
Directed by: David Ayer
Writer(s): David Ayer (written by)
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrera
Theatrical Release Date: September 21, 2012
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, DVD Copy, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 1.85
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 39.2 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 4.0/5
David Ayer’s latest police drama, which he has now a total of six to his name, is a harrowing and gritty look at life on the streets of the worst parts of L.A. but even more so, a look at the cause and reaction of the two main character’s actions.
End of Watch is shot in “found footage” style with a mostly first-person viewpoint via handheld cameras and small ones attached to the character’s clothing. The film follows LAPD officers Brian Taylor (JAKE GYLLENHAAL) and Mike Zavala (MICHAEL PENA) who have not only been working together, taking down bad guys in fierce style, for three years but are also best friends. While Mike has a great woman in Gabby (NATALIE MARTINEZ) at home, Brian has been searching for the right woman and might have found her in Janet (ANNA KENDRICK), a person who matches him in every way.
Brian and Mike patrol the mean streets of Los Angeles taking down bad guys left and right including a drug smuggler with a golden AK-47. In between the street patrols, inner workings and politics within the force, they discuss life, relationships and all that turning this crime drama into a clever, revealing and introspective character drama in addition to the main genre. What’s also nifty is the way Ayer is able to show the passage of time without resorting to on-screen dates.
In any case, through another case they were following, uncover a human smuggling ring which ICE had been investigating. Remember when I said case and reaction? Well, the ring was discovered because, without authorization, Brian tracked down the house via phone records and now the gang in charge wants these two cops taken out.
First and foremost, the script (by Ayer) isn’t the best plot wise; in fact, it’s more background noise more than anything else. However, thanks to two excellent performances from Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, and Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez as well, the character moments more than make up for the script’s shortcomings. I couldn’t help by enjoy seeing Gyllenhaal and Pena together merely driving around in a squad car chatting about seemingly random things and bickering like old friends tend to do. It’s something really to behold and I only wish either Gyllenhaal or Pena received more recognition than they did.
The supporting actors aren’t overly prevalent but they are effective. You have the two female lovelies in Anna Kendrick, who is making a name for herself of late, and Natalie Martinez fulfilling their roles quite nicely. In the villains role, none of them are very good actors though I suppose they present enough of a threat that they’re efficient enough since their characters are one-dimensional and, like the plot, sidelined for the two main characters.
End of Watch was written, produced and directed by David Ayer, who has made a career out of the cop-crime-drama genres most notably, Training Day which landed Denzel Washington a Best Actor Academy Award. Ayer’s other movies are also telling from the breezy The Fast and the Furious to the entertaining S.W.A.T. to 2005’s equally gritty Harsh Times which I didn’t care very much for. He also helmed the cop ensemble Street Kings wasn’t bad. Here, although it feels more fly-on-the-wall and essentially improvised, I have to give credit for stitching together a coherent story, if not overly simple, plotline that allows the two actors to shine.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy, title-embossed slip cover. Inside are retail DVD Copy and a slip with the code to use with either the classic Digital Copy or the UltraViolet one. All the features are in HD unless otherwise noted.
Audio Commentary – This is probably the only useful feature on the disc is this commentary with Writer/Director David Ayer providing info into the background of the story, filming various scenes and working with the actors.
Deleted Scenes (46:41) – Here we get an astounding 17 extended and/or deleted scenes that for one reason or another did not make the final cut. They’re nice on their own but would’ve dragged the film if even half of them were included.
There are a set of five short, EPK featurettes (TRT 11:00): Fate with a Badge (2:10), In the Streets (2:10), Women on Watch (2:00), Watch Your Six (2:35) and Honors (2:04). None of these are particularly insightful and only scratches the surface offering only basic interview sound-bites and behind-the-scenes footage.
Previews – Hit & Run, Silent Hill: Revelations, Guns, Girls & Gambling, Death Race 3, Side Effects
VIDEO – 4.0/5
Universal Studios Home Entertainment releases End of Watch presented in its original 1.85 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-def transfer. This one is tough to judge because most of the film not only uses handheld-type cameras, and smaller ones, but it’s also at many points fairly shaky as well. Colors for the most part look washed out while the detail levels are at least decent. The picture also has a fair amount of natural film noise. I’m pretty certain that this was the intent of the director and cinematographer, so there’s nothing wrong with the picture, it just doesn’t lend to an extraordinary transfer.
AUDIO – 4.25/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is effective but hardly noteworthy. The dialogue audio as you might expect kind of match the type of cameras being used which means it’s not very loud though it is clear enough. When the film goes outside of the handhelds and minis, including a rocking soundtrack, then things pick up and make use of the surrounds and LFE channel.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, End of Watch is one of the more uniquely shot films of 2012. It’s a mix of “found footage” style mixed with a gritty tone that Ayer is known for throughout his many cop-centric films. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena turn in great performances and although the story is a bit weak, the character aspects make up for any shortcomings. Because of the style, the picture isn’t the prettiest, the audio, outside of the score/music, is nondescript and the features are forgettable. Even so, the movie is good enough to at least try out once via rental.