Some of the extras in the End of Watch Blu-ray have the actors or creators claiming that no one has ever made a movie that shows the “real LAPD officer” before. I call b.s. on that, but I think it’s fair to say that no one has done it with more visceral energy. This is one is an exciting, if a somewhat pedestrian-plotted, movie.
Ex-Marine Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and family man Mike Zavala (Michael Peña), are LAPD cops patrolling a drug gang neighborhood, trying to protect and serve. Fortunately, Taylor also has a film class, so he’s recording much of their work. This is the basic premise of End of Watch, which is a “found footage” movie from Training Day writer David Ayer. The found footage is of Taylor and Zavala in their patrol car doing those things cops do. You know, shooting gang bangers to death, saving kids from a burning house, having a one-on-one fight with a mouthy suspect, finding kids duct taped in a crack house, the usual.
The insider footage concept does bring immediacy to the movie that might not have been possible with traditional filming, but Ayer cheats this by also doing the normal third-person filming and blending the two. It makes for a disjointed film, as you feel like you are part of Taylor and Zavala’s world in a “real” way and then all of sudden you will think, “Wait, who is filming that?”
This disjointed feeling doesn’t stop the excitement of the chases, arrests, and other high-energy scenes that are both professional and gritty. It also doesn’t take away from Gyllenhaal and Peña’s performances, which are the highlight of the movie. They sell their commitment to their profession and, more importantly, each other. That brotherhood of the badge, love-and-care-for-one-another partnership, through thick and thin and standard insults, is the heart of the movie.
It has to be the heart since the plot, as it stands, is kinda lame. The movie is episodic in nature, without a narrative flow. You’ll see Brian and Mike arresting this guy, then talking to this lady, then saving these kids, then pulling over this drug dealer. Interspersed with this are their home lives with their wives (Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez), as well as some interplay with other cops (America Ferrera, David Harbour, Frank Grillo), but mostly the film follows Brian and Mike doing what cops do. They end up on the wrong side of a drug gang’s ire, which leads to a big shootout ending, but it’s a really false note considering the rest of the movie.
If Ayers had relied completely on found footage and pieced together a more natural climax to the efforts of the cops, he might have had a police classic. Instead, it’s an exciting movie anchored by dynamite performances that has a few too many drawbacks to be the best of the genre.
Much like the movie itself, the End of Watch Blu-ray has the makings of something very impressive, but ends up being just pretty good. On the positive is the glorious HD that works well with the found footage concept. The cameras in the police car give a better visual than you usually see with that shot and the night scenes, of which they are many, allow for easy identification of all the players.
Writer and Director David Ayer provides an interesting commentary. He does acknowledge the fact that he is danger of being pigeonholed as an “LAPD” director, but felt that he had to make the movie to tell all the interesting stories he’s heard from his cop buddies. You might disagree, but at least he acknowledges the issue and gives his side of the story, which is more than you can say in other commentaries. He talks about the filmmaking, the found footage shots, and the more unbelievable parts of the plot, often saying “it’s from a real event, so suck it” or words to that effect.
In addition to the commentary, there are 45 minutes of deleted scenes. Most of these are just extra episodes in the daily life of the cops, so they can be viewed separately from the movie without much loss. Others expand on some of the plot points in the movie, including two talking head interviews with Taylor and Zavala about their rescue of some kids in a house fire. Since the deleted scenes are a bit under half of the running time of the actual film, they are substantial and worth checking out.
The last, and least, extra are five “featurettes.” That seems pretty good, but they actually suck. Each lasts a little over two minutes and they are, in effect, trailers. The trailers include some behind-the-scenes footage and interviews, but they all end with the theatrical release date of the film. So, they were clearly designed to play in movie theaters or on TV and don’t give any real insight. In fact, some of the interview clips and other footage is repeated in several segments. Also, there is no “play all” feature, so each two-minute trailer has to be accessed from the featurette menu, which is a pain.
Some good length featurettes combined with the commentary and all the deleted scenes would have made this a much better product. It’s good, just not that good. Overall, the whole package probably works better as a rental rather than investing in a purchase.