After nearly two months of absence, I return to blogging with a review of the best 2012 film I have seen so far. Enjoy!
Genre: drama, comedy.
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour, Natalie Martinez
Director/Writer: David Ayer
In the long history of buddy movies that have emanated from Hollywood, End of Watch is among the most powerful, realistic and genuinely funny ones I have had the pleasure to watch.
The relationship that develops between Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena), two decent LAPD patrol officers, is absolutely fun to watch. There is great authenticity and intensity in the performances, carrying the film with undeniable street charm through occasional patches of police cliches and shaky camera work.
The apparent bond between the actors is undoubtedly the film’s strongest asset. The strength of the “bro-mance” comes from the wittiness of David Ayer’s screenplay, the mastermind behind Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day, which gave Denzel Washington his second Academy Award. In a similar fashion, the script in End of Watch pushes forward with unrelenting pace but always mindful of rhythm, alternating humor with thrills, violence and drama, occasionally taking a breather.
Like Mr. Washington did with Training Day, both Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena accomplish with their roles in here except that they opt for more restrain, instead of the grand treatise of the two-time Oscar recipient. With their characters, the two young actors quickly gain our affection, which grows stronger as they face more danger and start uncovering a blood-thirsty Mexican drug cartel almost by accident in South-Central LA.
In between the patrolling sequences, which mostly take place inside their cop car, the screenplay makes room for our main characters to show us a glimpse of their lives away from the streets. In it, we find two good guys, one who relishes his role as a husband and father, affectionately calling his wife “his bitch”; and the other who seeks for companionship and finds it in Janet, played by an unremarkable Anna Kendrick.
Despite the lack of chemistry between Mr. Gyllenhaal and Ms. Kendrick that can sometimes be mistaken with cuteness, the rest of the cast pulls its own weight, sometimes as quick-witted fellow police officers or as figures of authority that bring calm and responsibility to the gang.
Though the final scenes excel with intensity, much like the rest of the film, there is a degree of predictability that reduces the emotional knock-out the film was looking for. However, it is telling that even when it lets us down just a little bit, the film is so well thought out and constructed that it breathes with life as soon as you think it might collapse under the weight of its own authenticity.
Rating: 4.5/5 (great) – not perfect, but immensely satisfying.
♦ Candidate to the Blog of Big Ideas Top 250 films Ever ♦