Sunday, 29 March 2020

Movie review: End of Watch, dir David Ayer (2012)

This small-budget police drama is another film about the US’ endless and useless war on drugs. It’s a war the country is not only losing but which is becoming more and more irrelevant as numerous states change their laws to make them more rational. Rather than a crime issue, drug use should be dealt with as a health issue, because what you get with the first option is a lot of sensational headlines about drug busts and a lot of human suffering.

At the centre of this movie are two Los Angeles cops – Jake Gyllenhaal is Brian Taylor and Michael Peña is Miguel Zavala – who get mixed up with criminal elements whose tactics go beyond what they have been trained for. Police are not intelligence operatives and they are not soldiers.

Policing is a very dangerous job and the rate of discharge due to mental health issues is very high compared to other professions. I thought that this film did a good job in showing why that is but the narrative falls a bit too easily into a predictable rhythm. Taylor and Zavala will be driving in the street in their patrol car talking about the women in their lives and then the radio will crackle to life and they will rush off to attend to some new problem – a fire in a suburban house or a woman’s search for her two children – that needs their attention.

Another problem is that the film telegraphs its punches because of how the leads’ personal lives are embellished. If the viewer relates to a character because the story shows him or her enjoying normal things like weddings – Taylor gets married to a woman named Janet (Anna Kendrick) – and births – Zavala’s wife (Natalie Martinez) has a child – then odds are that something bad is on the way.

You don’t often talk about a “Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle” because he’s done such great work in other films, but it’s fitting in this case because this is not his best work. For this I blame the writing.

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