David Ayer, the writer of such cop dramas as S.W.A.T. and Training Day (to say nothing having penned the original movie in The Fast And Furious franchise—hope you got royalties, buddy!) takes a turn at the helm for a new cop drama/buddy flick End Of Watch.
This is the story of a couple of cocky young cops who are out on the street, mixing it up with the locals, keepin’ it real (as the kids say) and ultimately crossing swords with some dangerous drug dealing organizations (Pfizer and Eli-Lilly).
Ha! I kid Big Pharma.
No, the larger villain in this piece is prohibition, the War on Drugs which, as helpfully pointed out by some graffiti, has cost us over a trillion dollars and fosters crime and abuses of civil liberties. Except for being literally spelled out for a brief moment, the movie doesn’t really talk about the really blatant stupidity of the whole enterprise, just portrays the lives of those who live and work in it.
So, what is there to say about this well-worn ground? Probably not much you haven’t heard before. It’s not really any fresher, say, than Trouble With The Curve with one notable exception: You never know who might die, or when.
Of course, it’s a police drama, so we gotta set aside that something like two LAPD officers have been shot in the past ten years. Way more LAPD officers have been shot in movies and television than in real life. (There have been about 200 total deaths in the entire history of the LAPD going back 140 years, probably only half of those throug shooting.)
I digress. Non-dramaticallly.
Anyway, this movie works, by-and-large. It’s engaging. It develops its characters well. It has a more vignette feel than a typical 3-act type structure, but the vignettes escalate nicely, and the characters change and grow over the time that passes.
The two leads, played by Jake Gyllenhall (Prince of Persia) and Michael Peña (The Lincoln Lawyer) are the leads, and they’re both appealing and have a good chemistry. Their girls, Natalie Martinez and Anna Kendrick (50/50) work well with them, and all four have a natural feel as a group, really feeling like buddies and their wives and girlfriends.
The other characters are less sharply drawn, maybe even a little stereotypical but the concentration on the two leads really pays off.
It would seem to be necessary to address the whole business of the movie’s camera work: It’s all shaky-cam. At first, this kind of annoyed me, because the pretext is that Gyllenhall is filming it all, and that there are cameras everywhere (the police cars have built-in cameras, the gangbangers have cameras, there are street cameras, etc. etc.) but it’s quickly apparent that plenty of the shots are done from angles that are completely impossible from a “natural” perspective.
So, that seemed needlessly artificial in the cause of being natural. But it did win me over eventually, especially as some of these shots were very effective. There were even a few “first person shooter” shots, reminiscent of the last few minutes of DOOM where the movie emulated the game. But this was effective in creating a real sense of danger, in the mold of that old “Shoot/Don’t Shoot” video from a few years back.
So, overall, it’s not unfair to say that this is like a particularly extreme version of “Adam 12”, but it’s also not unfair to say that it’s a particularly good episode of same. The Boy and I liked it.