May 25, 2013

End of Watch

David Ayer, 2012

          Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) are partners for the LAPD and have to cover the rough terrain of South Central Los Angeles. Young, confident and headstrong - they find that they can quickly get buried in a mess that becomes hard to dig themselves out of.
          The first feature that is evident in the film are the noticeable similarities to Training Day. The comparisons are appropriate not only because of the setting and subject matter, but also because Ayer produced Training Day back in 2001. Ayer must love his bullets, according to IMDB he wrote a script for a remake of The Wild Bunch. Similar to Training Day, you are a witness to the gang violence and unpredictable nature of the L.A. streets. But while the setting is similar, the methods used in making the film are much different. There is a found-footage feel to End of Watch that really augments the adrenaline-fueled situations. Through clever placement of handheld cameras, and a lot of it held by the actors themselves, you really feel like you're in the middle of the action. The film is not entirely found-footage from handhelds. Studio cameras supplement the erratic camera work with stunning urban landscapes at sunset. Gyllenhaal delivers the best performance seen from him in years, perhaps since Donnie Darko. Credit is due to all actors in the film, as everyone feels very authentic. Michael Pena is very effective as Gyllenhaal's partner. The witty in-car dialogue between the two never gets stale and only helps to develop the audiences' investment in their alliance. They are constantly pulling pranks on each other, and their fellow officers. One of the officers and constant recipient of their high jinks, Van Hauser (David Harbour), serves as the elder, jaded cop who has become and numb to the criminal elements and in-house betrayal over time. His Xanax-fueled demeanor serves as a good contrast to the young partners, who still have a fire in their belly when hitting the litter-covered streets on a daily basis. The comradery between the officers feels genuine, as does the affection for their loved ones. The scene with Brian and Janet (Anna Kendrick) singing along to Cam'Ron's "Hey Ma" in the car really hit the mark in displaying the intimate moments between a young couple falling in love.
          There are so many impressive elements to the film from perfect casting, keen writing, clever editing, to adept use of sound. I had a feeling within the last few moments of the film that the ending was going to disappoint, and then it took another surprising turn and in the end became very satisfying. History has been kind to Training Day and I believe it will be even kinder to End of Watch.

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