Movie Review : End of Watch (2012)

The LAPD have a reputation for being trigger-happy and often needlessly brutal. Granted that it's part reality (ask Rodney King) and part fiction, END OF WATCH bore the promise to at least try to tell their side of the story. Shot in a oral history documentary fashion, the movie proposed an inside look into the ultra-violent inner city of Los Angeles. Truth to be told, END OF WATCH is difficult to take seriously, but it thinks the world of itself. After viewing, I'm even more convinced that the LAPD are needlessly brutal. In fact, I'm expecting them to kick down my door, cuff me and pepper-spray me in the face for what I'm about to write.

Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Peña) are two fascists who patrol the streets, gun down colored people, bump knuckles and go home to laugh about it. Every other cop in their station looks normal and seems to despise them, but they're not important to the story. Brian and Mike are balancing their emotionally fulfulling personal life with their brutal and demanding job, until the day they stumble upon the wrong patch of Mexicans and anger a mariachi-looking dude who wants them both dead for doing their job. But beings the cowboys they are, Brian and Mike don't really understand that stumbling upon a gold-plated AK47 isn't necessarily "cool",  so they keep patrolling and pulling over whoever they feel like.

I loved the idea. An oral history was an opportunity to do something gritty and yet expose both sides of inner city life. Structure-wise, it respects that idea. Although Brian's camera is the dominant one, there are two other cameras. One with the Mexican crew and one with the blacks. Unfortunately, it goes downhill from there. The movie opens with Brian and Mike chasing gangbangers down, shooting them in the face, bump knuckles and then go back to the station to pull good-natured prank on other officers of the law. It bothered me that every black person in this movie was a petty criminal or an irresponsible dope fiend and that every Mexican person, from the street thug to the gazpacho making mommy was evil and worked for the cartel. In fact, it seemed to bother everyone else, but Brian and Mike.

Once again, it's too bad, because there are great, visceral scenes it didn't build upon. Officer Van Hauser (David Harbour), portrayed as the uptight buzzkill by Brian's camera, was the unsung star of the show. The "Van Hauser" scene was difficult and brilliant and was worth kicking off its own movie. The only reason why I wasn't angry of viewing END OF WATCH was because of that scene. Only problem is that it's one of many standalone "patrolling" scenes that doesn't amount to anything until they stumble upon that goddamn gold-plated rifle. I have no issues with END OF WATCH being character-driven, but when my only two options are assholes with trophy wives slapped on them to cheaply heighten the drama, I do have issues with your movie.

Plenty of people liked END OF WATCH. It has an 85% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes and I have no idea why. So maybe you'll like it. If you're into crime fiction as deep as I am, you probably won't. If you've seen THE WIRE, you won't see any realism or subtlety to it. If you're familiar the wiseasses of Dennis Lehane or Don Winslow, you won't find Brian and Mike particularly funny, smart or cool. * END OF WATCH is a faceful of racial stereotypes, its protagonists are obnoxious, arrogant and impossible to relate to and it somewhat cheats its early promise of being an oral history. If anything, it's a two hours long PSA for police brutality. Too bad, because there are glimpses of a good movie scattered along this mess.


* I'm aware it's extremely pedantic to say this, but I want you to know crime fiction has a lot more to offer than this half-wit of a movie. It's a genre worth digging into.


I'm a pop culture blogger and author living in Montreal, Canada with my better half Josie and my dog Scarlett. I am a proud member of author collective Zelmer Pulp and have about a dozen of short stories published to my resume.

1 comment:

  1. The found-footage format weaves in-and-out and seems a bit dumb for the material, but still doesn’t distract us from the pitch-perfect chemistry of these two guys that are as entertaining and interesting to watch as any other cop in recent cop movies. Great review Ben.