Why I loved END OF WATCH

end-of-watch poster Jake and Michael stand tall and armed.

I loved END OF WATCH. This is what daring movie making is all about: real human connections, our social political world and the difficulties of being human and staying alive in a world driven by violence, hatred, drugs, politics and our need to make sense of it all.

Gonna spit this review out as fast as the movie made me watch it.

The acting is phenomenal, real, intense, emotional and captivating. There isn’t a moment the film doesn’t keep you in it. Focused on it, watching, seeking and being driven by it.

The dialogue is so brilliantly written and executed by the actors, it sets a new standard for realism in film. This is how people speak and interact and not once does a character utter a word you do not believe.

end_of_watch Jake's steely gaze sees all and makes no apologies.

Pena’s delivery has solid undertones of family and steadiness to each line, while Gyllenhaal brings a more loose feel dancing over Pena’s still foundation. It’s the perfect reflection of their character’s lives and how they interact with each other. I never heard an off tone.

Officers Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Pena) are partners, rough and ready friends looking to work their roles as Officers of the Peace to the fullest even if it means to break some peace to get the peace.

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This never feels like false machoism, there is a real sense of purpose and masculine strength and pride in fulfilling a task and a duty they have both given their lives to.

Pena rises the grit of tension with his depth and conviction to his character. It’s truely compelling. In one particular scene, when facing a gangbanger who is being unruly and speaking wildly, Pena accuses the Gangbanger of calling him out, of challenging him as a man ethically and Pena takes this so seriously that he bargains with the towering hood.

Taken aback by the truthful manner of Pena’s promise, the hood agrees that if Pena can beat him down one on one, that he will put the cuffs on himself.

It’s an important moment in the film, exemplifying the nature of the partners’ conviction to their job, not just as Police men, but as dispensers of Justice on site with a moral code that even their so-called enemies can respect.

It’s this level of humanity written into the script that coagulates the filming style and acting into a must-see film. It’s a masterful execution and when it works, it cannot be denied.

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The filming is mostly done is shaky handy cam style and though I am not a fan of this style, it was created so succinctly it drew me into the situations and plight of the characters.

For the first time, first person POV worked for me in a film. You are witnessing the effect of YouTube on Cinema. I don’t think there will be any turning back now that a constantly changing POV shoulder cam shooting style from YouTube has been successfully merged into the filmmaking vocabulary. It’s been tried many times before with many bad movies, but in this instance it has either finally evolved into a viable highly effective choice or we have become so inundated by it’s perspective it now seems natural and involving.

I know I have always been repulsed by the attempts of YouTube or Gaming technique used in film, especially dirty, grainy, lowlight shaky-cam pov, intercuts and the straight talking into the lens ideology of “look at me” video technique.

Yet, damn it, if David Ayer, the Writer/Director, hasn’t managed to get it right and make it legit.

There was a few times when I got the nasty chill of video game screen grabs from DOOM. First person POV handgun hovering in the air, seeking a target, always makes my teeth grind.

But Ayer quickly surpasses this with intense performances and timing of when to move in close with the POV cam, bringing up the emotional charge, hyper activating the connectivity of the scene and overriding the inherent bad video nature of the technique. This creates a familiarity, while offering the viewer a unique vision of interactivity. It’s this quality of the skill, in acting and direction, that allows or creates a sense of realism as opposed to the usual fake feeling created by such video shots.

It also brings into perspective the fact that almost everyone has a camera on them now. Either iPhone or camcorder or hidden street cams, it’s a common occurrence, you are going to be recorded when you leave your house.

Big Brother is here, he’s owns the land and it’s been true for a long time now. Only maybe Big Brother is also going to include the population as well.

Though I will admit when the camera turned to a wide shot cinematic style with a slow pan, I felt some relief. the constant in your face YouTube POV can produce a tired eye.

And make no mistake about it, this is a film not a movie. This is the real deal, what movies were about in the 70’s, only in an innovative and current style.

“Follow Me Into The House.”

Gyllenhaal asks Pena to follow him into the house after Pena stomps down the front door of a house to discover mutilated bodies and drugs, all courtesy of the Cartel. It’s a metaphor for the loyalty between the two men and it eventually leads Pena to his death. It’s Gyllenhaal asking Pena, heart to heart, to follow through with their beliefs and transcend even the lines of LAPD Detective and Black and Whites. To follow their sense of Justice and work it ’till the job is done or they are.

This is real screenwriting at its best, no on the noise dialogue, but real motivated words seeping in meaning and god-damned truth. The kind of truth you may have trouble finding in your own life, everyday.

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This film makes no qualms about it’s story, of the constant danger for Police officers, for the people living in Gang areas and for the gangs racked up against the LAPD.

More recent news over the last few years about drug cartels in Mexico, their kidnappings of Americans, drug warfare and Mexico’s own problems with the violence escalating from the Cartels, makes End of Watch a highly political film. The politics and basis in reality supports the films tensions and approach.

This movie woke me up.

I can’t believe I got to watch this for a buck at RedBox, what is the world coming to?  It almost makes up for all the bad movies that stole my buck.

Go rent it now. If you love movies. Finally, one to watch.

Oh Damn if this film doesn’t make ARGO look even more BAD. Ok, sorry I shouldn’t have said that. Maybe I will delete that line later, because I shouldn’t use the phrase MORE BAD. It’s not proper english, but it’s in the vein of this film’s review to diss another film.

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