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End of Watch - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
End of Watch
Directing: B
Acting: A-
Writing: B+
Cinematography: C
Editing: B+

Oh my god, can we quit with the "found footage" genre? Pretty please? Seriously.

It's not exactly the genre of End of Watch, but it's close enough: most of the film is shown from the point of view of either a handheld camera or the surveillance camera mounted on a police car dashboard. This is explained by Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) as part of a film project he's doing. Evidently he's takinng a class. We never see anything about the class except the footage he's filming -- over the course of months. His partner and extremely close friend, Mike (Michael Peña), tolerates this. Others on the force are varying levels of annoyed by it.

Frankly, I was annoyed by it from pretty much beginning to end of this movie, both because it's such a grossly overused cinema technique and because it was so unnecessary to the telling of the story -- not to mention the constant shaking of the camera. Enough already! This was an otherwise very well done film, but this one thing nearly derailed it for me.

But if you can get past the exasperating cinematography -- and, actually, I did, though barely -- it's worth a look. This is a rare movie that treats a really close friendship between two straight men with both realism and integrity. Yes, there really can be emotionally intimacy between men without any homoeroticism. That part is genuinely refreshing.

Brian and Mike are good cops in South Central L.A. who do some dubious things at times. This leads to them getting in the way of the Mexican drug cartel operating in the area. When it comes to the storytelling, this unfolds at a steady pace in tandem with scenes clearly meant to establish how close those guys are and how much they really mean to each other. They are also a tad reckless, and one decision that seems to them only of moderate danger proves to be life threatening.

The two make a gruesome discovery that prompts the cartel to order them killed. We actually don't get to this point until well past the halfway point in the film, after we see what kinds of dangerous situations these guys get into on a regular basis that are totally unrelated. But by the time the group of Mexican criminals are set upon them with machine guns, the two don't quite know exactly how deep is the shit they've gotten themselves into.

Peña and Gyllenhaal both turn in excellent performances, as do Natalie Martinez and Anna Kendrick as their respective wives, and America Ferrara as a fellow cop. There's never any trouble believing these people and their circumstances, which hurtle inevitably toward tragedy. Although there does remain the question, after all is said and done, of how safe the surviving characters at the end really are. Can't the cartel just keep sending more assassins? Maybe that's part of the point.

It's just too bad the "footage" itself is so distracting and unrealistic. This could have been a great movie, but instead it has to overcome this one gigantic flaw to be merely good.

Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal are at their END OF WATCH.

Overall: B
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