DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

 
END OF WATCH (director/writer: David Ayer; cinematographer: Roman Vasyanov; editor: Dody Dorn; music: David Sardy; cast: Michael Pena (Mike Zavala), Jake Gyllenhaal (Brian Taylor), Anna Kendrick (Janet), Natalie Martinez (Gabby), America Ferrera (Orozco), Cody Horn (Davis), Frank Grillo (Sarge), David Harbour (Van Hauser), Cle Sloan (Mr. Tre), Jaime Fitzsimmons (Capt. Reese); Runtime: 109; MPAA Rating: R; producers: John Lesher/David Ayer/Nigel Sinclair/Matt Jackson; Open Road; 2012)

"LAPD thriller set in the violent inner-city section of South Central."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

David Ayer ("Harsh Times"/"Street Kings"), Training Day screenwriter, is writer-director of this LAPD thriller set in the violent inner-city section of South Central. Patrol officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) are the good-guy action seeking partners, who form a brotherhood so close they would take a bullet for the other. The pic follows the officers in their patrol car as they make the rounds of their beat while shooting the breeze, teasing each other unmercifully and chatting about personal things that rock their boat. The film has a documentary look of cinema vérité, as Brian video tapes everything as he shoots an unauthorized documentary of life on the force for a college film-making course. Brian always carries a small handheld HD and pins to his uniform a recording device that allows him to document his actions as a cop. The banter between the white cop and the Mexican cop highlights the film, and though filled with profanity and questionable actions it still shines a good light on the gung-ho renegade cops. When the buddy cops are through gabbing they are put to the test of handling one tense violent incident after another that include Hispanic and black gangs fighting for turf over drug sales and the partners rolling up into a number of gruesome scenes caused by a powerful ruthless Mexican cartel expanding into Los Angeles. Messing with the cartel gets the partners earmarked for a contract hit, to be served by the vicious Latino Curbside gang. They are into video taping their crime activities for narcissistic purposes, just like Brian.

All the street violence and comical riff between the macho buddy cops soon leaves us numb, even as the good guy cops are viewed as unsung heroes doing a thankless job of trying to stop crime among the scum of the earth. The buddy cops even go beyond the call of duty in rescuing two children from a burning house when the fire department arrives late. Ayer overloads it on shocking incidents, with such things as a cop with a knife in the eye, human traffickers enslaving in cages many youngsters and adults, crackheads freaking out and mass mutilation killings discovered in a house. There's also the usual cinema drive-by shootings, high-speed car chases and cop vs. bad guy shootouts.

Nice girl Gabby (Natalie Martinez) is Mike's pregnant wife, while Janet (Anna Kendric) hooks the playboy college boy Brian into marriage because he can talk to her about serious things as well as joke around.

Though the reality in the streets is juiced-up it nevertheless has real situations and the film offers a great acting job by Gyllenhaal and Peña. These actors convince us they are the real deal and keep us involved with the explosive storyline, while the film captures the dangerous flavor of its inner-city locale. "Watch" is mucho Hollywood-like entertaining and offers a heartfelt tribute to LA's finest for working in a war zone. It paints the police as a close-knit fraternal brotherhood who have an impossible job of dealing with crime that ranges from dealing with the lone thug going berserk when being cuffed to the frightening organized Mexican drug cartel invading LA's neighborhoods. Ayer tells us that when doing things in a military-like professional way the men in blue make a difference in the lives of all citizens. As for the film making a difference, that's another story. It's just another cop crime drama, much like countless others, that can easily be forgotten, even if it might creep you out in how depressing and violent it is.

REVIEWED ON 9/23/2012       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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