End of Watch 3½/4 – A movie review by James Berardinelli

November 1, 2012 by James Berardinelli - Reelviews
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The problem with End of Watch, a gripping police drama, is director David Ayer’s stylistic decision to shoot nearly the entire movie tripod-less…writes James Berardinelli

Or, to put it another way, there’s a whole lotta shakin’ going on. Much of End of Watch could almost fall into the so-called “found footage” approach that is a hot trend in horror. Main character Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) is never without his handy digital camera, so we often see events through his lens. On other occasions, we are presented with the point-of-view of a police car front window cam (this may result in motion sickness for some audience members during car chases). And, even when a scene is shot using a more traditional third-person perspective, we’re still in hand-held territory. It’s an unwarranted distraction that, for some, will curtail the potential to experience and enjoy an otherwise finely written and crafted motion picture.

David Ayer must love cop films. His previous directorial effort, Street Kings, was one, and his best-known work as a screenwriter, Training Day, fit into the same category. This time, however, he’s taking a slightly different tact and, instead of telling a tale of police corruption and the men who embrace it, he’s going for something a little less Hollywood. The cops are the good guys: hard workers who uphold the law and, occasionally, when demanded by duty, make heroic sacrifices. They love their wives and girlfriends and there’s a real sense of camaraderie between them. In addition to a building sense of tension as the narrative moves towards its climax, End of Watch boasts surprising emotional heft. This is as much about the humanity of the people in the police cars as it is about the job they do.

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