The Found Footage Genre Applied To A Buddy Cop Movie Proves Ineffective
Written by Matt Giles
Edited by Erin Accomando
An up close and personal look at the lives of two hotshot police officers patrolling South Central, End of Watch is about as gritty as it gets. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as Brian and Mike, two Los Angeles cops who get more than they bargained for on an almost weekly basis. Brian is taking college classes on the side, one of which happens to be a film course. For one of his projects, he decides to outfit himself and Mike with mini-cameras so that whoever watches his finished film will get a first person perspective of their daily routines.
The interesting stylistic choice on the part of writer/director David Ayer, who has an obvious affection for the found footage genre, is abandoned midway through the movie. But it's not unwelcome, considering within the first twenty minutes or so even the criminals that Brian and Mike are chasing have cameras, the reasons for which are never explained. Once the switch occurs, you're immediately aware of it and it takes away from some of the film's emotional impact; you no longer believe in the vision of South Central Ayer set out to show us. Instead, you realize that this is just hyper stylized world that is nothing more than the creation of a gifted filmmaker.
This is not to say that the film doesn't have certain things going for it. Gyllenhaal and Peña have terrific chemistry, so much so that even when Ayer is is making mistakes stylistically you still believe that these guys are actually cops. Gyllenhaal's Brian is tough and brazen, pushing the limits of his job a little too far, while Peña plays Mike equally as assertive as Brian is, albeit with a more level head on his shoulders. You immediately see why these two are not only partners but best friends, and they keep you invested in their story.
That story is one that leads to a lot of dead bodies, mangled cops and the Mexican cartel, all of which seems like a little too much over the span of time that the movie covers, which seems to be about a year, maybe two. While both leads are good, Ayer, for all the realism he's going for, doesn't seem to have a grip on reality. He's too chaotic for a movie about chaotic circumstances and too indecisive to stay with one style. The result is a film that happens to have solid performances from its actors but falls short of being anything memorable.