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End of Watch Puts A Unique Spin on Found Footage, Cop Drama

End of Watch
Written and directed by David Ayer
Open Road, 2012

I didn’t think much of End of Watch when I saw the trailers, although I was still interested in it because it looked like Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena were having a blast together.  But I was dismissing it as yet another gritty crime police drama, especially since it comes from Training Day/Dark Blue/S.W.A.T./Harsh Times writer David Ayer, who also directed Street Kings in addition to Harsh Times.

But it looks like Ayer decided to go in a different direction himself.  We’re no longer in the “dirty cop” subgenre, and the movie is done almost completely with handheld footage.  And what comes out is a completely different spin on the crime film we’ve come to expect in the last decade.

Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and his partner Mike Zavala (Pena) are cops that patrol some rough sections of L.A., and they wear tiny cameras on their uniforms to capture it all.  We see them busting down doors, chasing perps, and stumbling on awful discoveries, the main thread of which involves human trafficking, something that the deeper they get into, the more danger they’re in.  But for the most part, this movie is about these cops doing their job, and their interplay with one another, and outside the job, Taylor’s relationship with new gal Janet (Anna Kendrick, who I have mentioned before, might be the prettiest girl ever).

That plot is simple, right?  Yes it is…and I was thankful.  Not because I demanded a movie to be less complex just so I could take a break, but because very early on, I was worried that the first couple of scenes were going to somehow connect in a horrible way where we start wondering if one of these guys is a dirty cop, where their friendship is on the line, and all that.  But the movie stays on point: it makes it an episodic look into the job, almost documentary style.  And yes, there’s an overall thread that brings all of this to a head, but I really enjoyed the loosely connected “months in the life” of two cops.

Gyllenhaal and Pena are having a lot of fun in this.  In fact, this is one the funniest cop movies you’ll ever see.  They’re interactions with each other are great, and even the girls get in on the act.  Natalie Martinez, who plays Zavala’s wife Gabby, has one of the funniest scenes in the movie.  The family aspect of the cops and their women is what gives the movie its heart, even while we see some not-so-pleasant things.

A real surprise here.  This is a very good movie.

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