(US - 2012)
Written and directed by David Ayer. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrera, Cody Horn, Frank Grillo, David Harbour, Cle Sloan, Maurice Compte, Yahira "Flakiss" Garcia, Diamonique, Kristy Wu. (R, 110 mins)
Since his breakthrough scripting 2001's TRAINING DAY, David Ayer has become an auteur of Los Angeles crime cinema, demonstrating a particular gift for capturing the sights and sounds of cop and criminal life, with the lines often blurred beyond recognition. Ayer has focused largely on corrupt cops (in addition to TRAINING DAY, there's 2004's DARK BLUE, and 2008's STREET KINGS, which he directed but didn't write), and would appear to be the cinematic heir apparent to the Demon Dog of L.A. crime fiction, James Ellroy (who collaborated with Ayer on the DARK BLUE script and co-wrote STREET KINGS). But Ayer seems to work better as a writer than a director, and the results of END OF WATCH are mixed. There's no questioning Ayer's knowledge of South Los Angeles and his dedication to capturing the environment in the most realistic, hard-hitting ways. But there's also no questioning that the best cop films Ayer's been involved in--TRAINING DAY and the underrated DARK BLUE--were directed by others (and I'm not counting hired-gun scripting gigs like the original THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and S.W.A.T.). Ayer's first time behind the camera was with 2006's HARSH TIMES, where he managed to accomplish the unthinkable and show us that there were indeed some roles that an absurdly miscast Christian Bale can't play. STREET KINGS had some strong elements undone by plot contrivances and a ridiculous performance by Forest Whitaker. Similarly, END OF WATCH is hampered by inconsistencies that don't derail the film but absolutely hold it back and keep it from becoming the modern day crime classic that it has the potential to be.
There's a great film buried somewhere in END OF WATCH, but we only see fragments of it: the Taylor/Zavala camaraderie, the desire to vividly capture the reality of police work in South Los Angeles, and the performances of Gyllenhaal, Pena, Compte, and Flakiss. END OF WATCH is easily Ayer's most accomplished work yet as a filmmaker, but it's hard not to wonder if having someone else behind the camera--an Antoine Fuqua, perhaps?--would've allowed him to focus more on the writing and flesh out and fine-tune the less successful elements. In the end, END OF WATCH is extremely flawed and problematic, but as frustrating as it is, what it gets right is done so well that it's still very much a worthwhile film.
|David Ayer regular Cle Sloan has a supporting role in|
END OF WATCH, which begs the question...
|...how is Noel Gugliemi NOT in this?!|