End of Watch – David Ayer takes the cop buddy movie a little deeper.

I’ve read that Ayer write this script in under a week, and I have to say you can tell. There is enough good stuff in the film to carry it, but a huge let down for me is how underdeveloped the Brain Taylor (really well-played by Jake Gyllenhaal) character is. There are far too many questions about him that are left unanswered.  Why is doing the filming experiment? What made an intelligent, sophisticated man who turns down “pussy” in favour of deep emotional and intellectual connection with a woman want to become a cop? Why does he slide so comfortably between following the rules and disobeying them? Why doesn’t he listen when he is told to keep his nose clean because he and his partner are in real physical danger? Why is he perpetually allowed to film everything when he is continually being told he is not allowed?

Another problem I had, was the street gangs – black or Hispanic they are not convincing. Honestly, I felt like I could whip their ass. Maybe this is what the “real” bad mo-fo’s on the streets are like… transparent blow-hards trying to fake bravado?   I suspect there are more perpetrators of street crime that fall into this category than what we are used to seeing on film.  However, on End of Watch this looks like a writing and acting problem. I can’t imagine a bunch of leaders of a drug cartels saying their biggest problem is every chicken stand has been replaced by a taco stand – you get my drift?

We have other plot problems too – many of them stem from underdeveloped Taylor.  Why the thin blue line have been left completely ill-informed and exposed when serious people trafficking and drug cartels are operating under their nose is hard to get your head around. If the plot carried some sort of corruption subtheme the viewer would understand why these men are left naked in the dark.  But it doesn’t.

Having launched into all the problems with this film, I will say the “good” stuff is good enough to create a really exciting, tension filled film. Much has been made of the way it is filmed. A lot of it has been done on a hand-held camera. As I said above, we never know beyond “an experiment”  why Taylor is doing this, but what is even stranger is the evil street gangs are doing it too and this is never explained or accounted for and predictably ruins the effect. Ayer swings from hand-held, to lapel snaps to helicopter shots and around and around so that you start to wonder what the point is. Again, if it had been better written, the film could have been done purely from the Cops point of view. Having said that, the “cops point of view” takes are exciting and the hand-held (despite making you feel very sick) does do the trick in drawing you in close to the action. One scene in particular when children have been locked in a cupboard and tied and gaffa-taped is extremely powerful in capturing the policemen’s mood.  I’ve never seen a variation on this done better. It plunged me into empathy with police and what they must confront on their job every day. I think this is the effect Ayer  is trying to cause.

The other much praised point in this film is that acting on the part of Jake Gyllenhaal and his buddy Mike Zevalia (Michael Pena).  Gyllenhaal and Pena are great and the moments in the car when the two are jostling each other between crimes are just about the best in the film. The relationship between the two men is completely believable.  The two actors are marvellous and they are supported (with the exception of the cartels) by wonderful acting around them. The pace of the film helps with plot holes as well – it is FAST.  I mean this film pumps along and any discrepancies in camera work are noticed, but tend to fall by the way without much irritation.

Other than that I will add it is nice to see a cop buddy film without one tired-titty-bar scene. Thank you very much David Ayer for moving these men into the 21st century.  There was cleavage, but not one exposed breast.  That was refreshing because I don’t think there has ever been a cop film in the history of the world that didn’t bend to the bare-breast rule.

Looks like it can be done after all.