End of Watch (2012) Directed by David Ayer. With Jake Gyllenhall, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, David Harbour, Frank Grillo, and America Ferrera.
Come the final credits, your emotional response to David Ayer’s gritty cop thriller, End of Watch, is utterly dependent on how much you have connected to and felt involved with the two central characters, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.
In a curious move, Ayer opts to flit between handheld documentary style and actual film. While this works in part, visually it’s occasionally a tad confusing and seems to give the mise-en-scène a slightly uneven tone. This may have been the director’s intention all along, but I found it distracting.
That said, there is good work here and while the film didn’t manage to get me overly invested in the two guys as much as it could, the performances are strong. At times I felt as though the story drifted, and that the film felt unfocused. Attempts to build the offbeat life of both characters into the narrative seem more token than anything with Anna Kendrick getting the most to do out of the two cops’ other halves.
By the end of this particular watch, you’d have to work pretty hard not to feel something for the hell these characters are put through. Ayers’ direction does sap the film of some potential, though, leaving a well acted, oddly disjointed film that feels a lot less coherent than it ought to. 3/5