05 December 2012

End of Watch review

End of Watch is easily one of the best movies I have seen this year. The story revolves around two young cops and their work in the seedy and crime infested districts of Los Angeles.

Right off the bat you will notice something stupid, it's filmed as a quasi-documentary. For some reason. The main characters have cameras and the bad guys have cameras - somehow the director got the idea that "documentary style camerawork is awesome", then he forgets it altogether half the time and has 3rd person point of views of the action and weird angles that make no sense within the context of the established camera rules. It also doesn't have anything to do with the plot (unless you count something towards the very end of the movie which I think could have been done as a regular flashback). This is the one of two things that annoyed me, but the movie is so good I was able to look beyond this flaw. It is also nowhere near as bad as "found footage" movies, so don't worry about that.

Now onto the good stuff. The cop characters, their dialogue and behavior feels and looks realistic. Much of the stuff they encounter is raw and gritty. This is not something that would make a good recruitment video for the LAPD, the stuff these guys have to deal with is often "finger on the trigger" situations in a hostile environment. The day to day life is extremely well presented, and the movie makes a fantastic job of setting up the two main characters and mixing their private life matters with the job situation without making it a tedious melodrama or taking away from the tension. The way these guys talk to each other is at times pure gold, and it’s both funny and feels authentic. The characters are very well portrayed, or at least the cops are. The bad guys, the Latino gang members are cartoony as hell to the point of almost being a parody.

The bad guys are arguably the other thing I thought was weak (beside the stupid camera gimmick). Luckily, 85% of the movie centers on the two cop main characters so it's not that big of a deal.

The movie is a slow cooker, almost half of the running time is setting up the characters and establishing the often mundane nature of the job responding to civilian requests for aid and not actually fighting crime. Though even these parts are portrayed in a very interesting manner, and roughly halfway through the actual plot kicks in with the Mexican Cartel working the LA underground (some pretty gruesome stuff follows). The action once it happens is very fast and leans more towards the realistic rather than spectacular. One thing the movie does well is setting up an ambiguous hint towards explaining the events at the end of the movie, which I think could be interpreted as incidental or on purpose depending on how much you read into some details in dialogue and parts of the plot (making it possibly darker if you let your imagination run wild).

The writer of this movie has previously written Training Day, and if you liked that movie this one is fairly close in style. Again, one of the best movies I have seen this year, and hands down one of the top 5 cop movies I have seen. Highly recommended despite the cartoony bad guys and the stupid camera gimmick.


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