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End of Watch(2012)
Two young officers are marked for death after confiscating a small cache of money and firearms from the members of a notorious cartel, during a routine traffic stop.
For more about End of Watch and the End of Watch Blu-ray release, see End of Watch Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 10, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, Frank Grillo, Michael Peña, Natalie Martinez
Director: David Ayer
» See full cast & crew
End of Watch Blu-ray Review
"It's never an easy ride..."
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 10, 2013
End of Watch is popping up on a number of "Best of 2012" lists, and I'll be the first to admit for good reason. Or two good reasons rather: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, both of whom deliver unmistakably outstanding performances. So for those of you already glaring at the movie score looming over my writeup, itching to retreat to the forum and complain that my take on the film is "suspect" (always my favorite nonsensical charge), let's shake hands and pretend the review ends right here, with the insinuation that Watch deserves much of the praise it's received. Or perhaps instead we'll admit, just this once, that the great thing about cinema is that no two people have the exact same response to the same movie, proceed as if internet civility is a given and take a few minutes to discuss what doesn't work in writer/director David Ayer's fractured POV cop drama, which for me is quite a lot. Agreed? I'm excited...
I am the police, and I'm here to arrest you. You've broken the law. I did not write the law. I may disagree with the law but I will enforce it. No matter how you plead, cajole, beg or attempt to stir my sympathy. Nothing you do will stop me from placing you in a steel cage with gray bars. If you run away I will chase you. If you fight me I will fight back. If you shoot at me I will shoot back. By law I am unable to walk away. I am a consequence. I am the unpaid bill. I am fate with a badge and a gun. Behind my badge is a heart like yours. I bleed, I think, I love, and yes I can be killed. And although I am but one man, I have thousands of brothers and sisters who are the same as me. They will lay down their lives for me and I them. We stand watch together. The thin-blue-line, protecting the prey from the predators, the good from the bad. We are the police.
End of Watch begins as something of a found footage film, offering a proper introduction to crime and punishment in South Central Los Angeles courtesy of LAPD officers Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal), a former Marine, and family man Miguel Zavala (Peña), Brian's partner and closest friend. Taylor it seems is taking a film studies course and has decided to document the rigors of his profession. But Ayer only sticks to such trappings for a few minutes and soon incorporates a variety of other sources: lapel and cruiser cams, street and security cameras, videos captured on gangsters' cell phones (because every good drug dealer documents their crimes), shots straight out of a first-person shooter, black and white filters, night vision cameras, shotgun-mounted mini-rigs and, more and more often, to increasingly distracting ends, the more artful, disembodied, ever-omniscient camerawork of the filmmakers.
The erratic points of view are jarring, so much so that Ayer's decision to run with a found footage premise, even in part, is all the more baffling. Why make such a fuss about Taylor's cameras? Why have him jump through hoops to justify lugging his personal recording devices everywhere, among them his own equipment, which is against regulation? The answer lies in Ayer's desire to shed light on a life in the day of a real LAPD officer in South Central LA; the horror, the carnage, the abuse, the truly shocking offenses witnessed week in and week out. Other directors have accomplished as much -- or more -- without resorting to burdensome gimmicks, among them Ayer himself. Training Day was gritty Hollywood spectacle, yes, but it was gripping Hollywood spectacle from start to finish, with a cohesive through-thread and engrossing character arcs. By contrast, End of Watch is peppered with powerful, gut-wrenching scenes undermined each and every time Ayer shifts views or abandons them altogether, inadvertently calling attention to the camera crew behind the reality curtain.
If the film's only sin were found footage discord, though, I wouldn't have come away so dissatisfied. Taylor and Zavala are overbearing hosts at times, one-upping each other's testosterone output whenever Ayer demands Gyllenhaal and Pena provide momentum on their own accord. Their fellow officers are plucked straight out of chintzy '90s cop shows too. There's the tenacious tomboy next door (Cody Horn), the stiff no-nonsense boyscout (David Harbour), the fierce latina (America Ferrera), the comically squirrelly, tragically doomed rookie (Kristy Wu), the threat-leveling sergeant (Frank Grillo), and the detached but chummy captain (Jaime FitzSimons). It's really that cookie cutter. Then there are the woefully inept gangsters that eventually come gunning for the LAPD officers, easily four of the most obnoxious, unbearable thugs to sully a modern cop drama. The tough-talking, chest-puffing actors over-playing Big Evil and his lackeys are out of their depth, their snarly dialogue is downright laughable, and their plan to take out Taylor and Zavala devolves into an improbably executed ambush driven by screenwriter hackery and spoiled by the sudden intrusion of over-the-top action.
And don't get me started on the hit the drug cartel puts out on our favorite LAPD do-gooders; a kill order the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency records during a surveillance mission and does precisely nothing about, either to warn Taylor and Zavala or the LAPD that two of their officers are in mortal danger. For a film that claims to cling so tightly to authenticity, End of Watch certainly takes a sharp right turn into genre convention, and with a half-hour to spare. It doesn't help that after a devastating blow and a heartwrenching penultimate scene, Ayer closes the film with an inconsequential, inexplicably timed flashback that's meant to encapsulate Taylor and Zavala's friendship but only diminishes the impact of everything that comes before it.
Still with me? Right about now, someone somewhere has stopped wondering why my score is so low and started wondering why it's so high. Simple: for all its brambles and undergrowth, there's still a compelling, almost masterfully conceived drama nestled in End of Watch's weeds. Gyllenhaal and Peña carry the film and do so with such dedication and commitment to Taylor and Zavala's integrity as fully realized characters that it's difficult to focus on anything other than their performances. And the loves of the officers' lives -- Taylor's new girlfriend Janet (Anna Kendrick) and Zavala's pregnant wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez) -- only make the leading men more compelling. Kendrick and Martinez are so good I wish they had more screentime, and their brief but intimate scenes with Gyllenhaal and Peña elevate the ensuing stakes exponentially. There are also the calls Taylor and Zavala respond to -- a car chase that ends in blood, a domestic disturbance, a missing child report, a house fire, a hunch that uncovers a human trafficking ring, a house call turned mass murder crime scene and more -- that make up the bulk of the film and knocked the wind of me every time. It's in those two areas, Taylor and Zavala's personal lives and challenging calls, that End of Watch excels. If Ayer hadn't focused so much of his attention elsewhere, it would have easily made its way onto my "Best of the Year" list too.
End of Watch Blu-ray, Video Quality
If it has a lens and captures video, chances are cinematographer Roman Vasyanov and editor Dody Dorn used it to bring Ayer's End of Watch together. Source-happy as the film's presentation is, though, there's nothing on display that suggests Universal's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is anything other than a faithful representation of Ayer and Vasyanov's original photography. Issues abound -- artifacting, aliasing, crush, noise, standard definition unsightliness and more -- but none of it traces back to the studio's efforts (or lack thereof). And, for the most part, it all fares quite well, with relatively lifelike colors and skintones, capable contrast and satisfying black levels. Shadows are often muted, sure. Delineation and clarity are problematic and inconsistencies are everywhere, no argument here. But again, it's all in keeping with the filmmakers' intentions. Not that Edge of Watch is an unattractive film by any means; just fittingly rough around the edges. When detail delivers, it delivers. Textures are revealing, definition is crisp and clean, and there aren't any errant anomalies to report. Of course, the presentation could be riddled with problems and it'd be next to impossible to tell. Even so, it's safe to assume everything is as it should be.
End of Watch Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal's meaty, visceral DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track packs more punch, if only because the film's testosterone-addled sound design isn't as limited by the equipment being utilized in any given scene. Dialogue falls victim to background chatter, environmental noise, air hiss and the like, yet rarely takes a hit in intelligibility. Voices are clear and smartly prioritized no matter how chaotic a face-off or shootout becomes, and the only lines overwhelmed in the madness are those Ayer specifically chooses to overwhelm. LFE output, meanwhile, is bold and booming, with deep, low-end thooms, throaty police cruiser engines and truly alarming gunfire, and rear speaker activity surrounds the listener in the all-too-convincing sounds of the crime-ridden South Central streets. Directional effects have pinpoint aim, cross-channel pans are transparent and dynamics are impressive. All things considered, Universal's lossless audio mix only makes everything Taylor and Zavala experience that much more effective and involving.
End of Watch Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
End of Watch Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Sixty percent of End of Watch really is one of the best films of 2012. Unfortunately, Gyllenhaal and Peña's performances, however award-worthy, and the story's most painful gut punches aren't enough to make up for the remaining forty percent. Ayer's drama and shifting points of view grow more and more indulgent as the film goes along, the supporting cast languishes (minus the nigh unshakable Kendrick and Martinez), and the third act neglects much of what renders the first hour so fascinating. Ah well, Universal's Blu-ray release is at least consistent thanks to a true-to-its-source video transfer, an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and a solid selection of extras (even if the featurettes available leave a lot to be desired). Ultimately, no matter how you end up responding to End of Watch, it's worth watching. Whether it's worth purchasing I leave to you.
End of Watch: Other Editions
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End of Watch Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Blu-ray Sales, January 21-27: End of Watch Comes Home to Top Spot - January 30, 2013
For the week that ended on January 27th, Universal Studios had the top Blu-ray and overall package media sales with its release of End of Watch. Director David Ayer's cop drama netted the studio a healthy profit when it premiered theatrically last September - ...
• This Week on Blu-ray: January 22-29 - January 20, 2013
For the week of January 22th, Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings End of Watch to Blu-ray. A cops-and-criminals thriller from Training Day writer David Ayer, End of Watch follows two hotshot police officers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) as they work ...
• End of Watch Blu-ray - November 22, 2012
Universal Studios Home Entertainment has officially announced and detailed the Blu-ray release of writer/director David Ayer's End of Watch, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as a pair of LAPD officers patrolling one of the city's most violent, gang-ridden ...
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