End of Watch (UK - BD RB)
Our Marcus hangs out with two LAPD cops in their cop car, McLovin style...
Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Michael Pena) are cops. The partners patrol the streets of LA and have a reputation for getting themselves into dangerous situations but coming out with results. Taylor decides to film many of their exploits and via a semi found footage style approach we begin to see how the two LAPD cops begin to get drawn into a local Latino gang’s exploits and the dark underbelly of the LAPD crime scene.
Straight off the bat don’t let the term “found footage” put you off with this one. Yes, there is a fair bit of odd camera angle use, with button hole cameras, handheld cams and odd views of the action but not once does director David Ayer let this turn into a series of bad cuts and clever tricks. He holds this together tightly like a good cop drama should and isn’t afraid to throw in genuine filmic camera shots to show the characters filming themselves to keep this in the realms of filmmaking rather than a fake documentary. The found footage angle here is 100% for technique and style as opposed to budget constraints or playing to a fad so you can relax, this isn’t Paranormal Activity with cops or anything.
So what of the film itself? End of Watch is actually quite brilliant without really shouting about it. We meet our two buddy cops and the knee jerk reaction would be to write them off as meat head action seekers but as the story unfolds you realise that’s just not the case. Gyllenhaal plays the cocky shaven headed Taylor with a real sense of intelligence. Yeah, he likes a fight and to take chances but there’s never a sense that he's not good at his job and has real aspirations to better himself. Same goes for Pena’s Zavala. He’s a good hearted guy and a family man but he knows the darker roads his job takes him on and what he has to do to overcome them.
In quite a real world way, End of Watch is still a buddy cop movie with all the same clichés of loyalty, brotherhood and seeing through chancy but promising leads together, despite the odds telling them otherwise. The action ramps up in all the right beats, there’s a bit of romance and a fair bit of stomach turning underworld shenanigans. This very much feels like a modern spin on the LA gang related crime flicks that had a swelling in the 90s but never slips into being about the action or the glamousing of gang relations. The approach here is realism and even though you could likely pick apart just how real the approach is, the reality David Ayer creates with his characters is totally believable within the realms of the story.
With the film shot with a combination of digital visuals to hold on to the found footage illusion, End of Watch has a variation of looks but they all look pretty great in HD. The image can have that HD creamy colouring to it from time to time and some elements are softer than others, depending on the lighting and location.
Colours are generally good, despite the creamy hues and in certain locations lighting can flare some of the primary colours a little but this is very much in line with the visuals that an off the shelf home camcorder generates. The same goes for the darker scenes which are generally clean and clear but can sometimes generate a higher grain level when lighting in minimal.
The slicker filmic camera angles can look much cleaner than the hand held stuff but detail throughout is consistently rich, due to the HD digital visuals. Skin textures don't always match what we're used to in traditionally shot films but interiors for the police car and details in the locations have moments of really popping with the aid of the 1080p presentation.
Sticking to the found footage formula, the fairly quiet scenes here mainly revolve around conversation and the soft rumble of a car’s engine. It’s a largely frontal audio experience to capture a bit more realism but when the gunfights or music on the soundtrack kicks off the DTS-HD 5.1 track likes to show off.
End of Watch provides a slightly heightened found footage audio presentation really. When the film becomes about thrilling cop chases and shootouts, the rules of limited audio recording is largely forgotten for the sake of the film’s overall effect. It’s never a distracting thing and still manages to keep the film grounded in reality but sound layers seem to widen the audio track a little. It’s not a full on Michal Mann gun show in the shoot outs or anything and rather than the typical explosive gunfire, we’re more in the world of sharp bassy clicks when the cops fire off their rounds and loud but never all that aggressive bouts as the gangs let rip with their machine guns.
The disc opens with trailers for Broken City, Vehicle 19 and Rampart, then it’s onto the End of Watch extras.
The commentary with director David Ayer is very much a technical approach and he isn't afraid to tell us the movie liberties he took and how situations would differ in the real world. It’s a good track in terms of how the film got made but there are times when the you wish Ayer’s had someone else to bounce off of.
The ‘Bafta Q&A’ (27:16 HD) is a raw recording in front of an audince and provides a bit more insight into the film’s origins. The long preparation for the film and the short 22 day shoot, Pena's desire for reality and brotherhood between the officers and more of what we get to hear on the commentary track really.
The Michael Pena Interview (05:03 HD) adds a bit more detail to what’s covered in the Q&A and then Jake Gyllenhaal makes an appearance for his interview (09:40 HD) which is a fairly serious and thoughtful tone from the usually lively smily actor.
The five featurettes (10:39 HD) are essentially just EPKs with a lot of short and sharp sound bites from the stars inter-cut with clips. The ‘Alternate Ending Rough Cut’ (02:32 HD) is footage of the funeral at the end of the film with a bleaker outcome than what we see in the final film and lastly there’s the deleted scenes (25:06 HD).
End of Watch was a great cop drama. I’m not sure I’ll rush to watch it again as it doesn't really become anything extraordinary but for its entire runtime I was locked in to its world as its two leads were very believable and enjoyable to be around. I do have to say that I feel that this one was sorely under appreciated in the 2012 line up. It sort of came and went on its initial release but I sense it could build quite a fanbase due to ground level look at the dark side of LA gang crime and like I said in the review, it feels very much akin to the LA gang crime flicks of the 90s, so fans of those should eat this one up. Anyway, the disc looks and sounds great, even with the found footage approach and the extras were okay but quite run of the mill really.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 15 years and over
Release Date: 18th March 2013
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: 5.1 DTS- HD 5.1 English, LPCM 2.0 English, Audio Description Service
Extras: Commentary, Deleted Scnes, Featurettes, Interviews, Alternative Ending, Bafta Q&A
Easter Egg: No
Director: John Ayer
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Natalie Martinez, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour, America Ferrera
Genre: Crime, Drama and Thriller
Length: 108 minutes
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