Friday, May 04, 2012

Good Cop Bad Cop Buddy Cop Bald Cop


The "buddy cop" movie lives and dies by the chemistry of its leads, and director David Ayer's End of Watch did pretty well by casting Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. This is by no means a comedy like 48 Hrs. but these two bring a lot of humor and spark to their day-to-day repartee as they're confronted with a steady stream of horrors on the streets of South Central Los Angeles.

And oh, the horrors. I suppose the first-person camera gimmick - pretty much the entire thing's shot via dashboard cameras or handheld cameras that Jake's character insists on carrying around everywhere for a "school project" (it might have been nice if we ever saw him attend or even mention school otherwise, maybe) - can't help but lend the entire enterprise a "You are there!" verisimilitude with Blair Witch echoes - even though we're never told who put this film together that we're watching, it's nigh impossible to watch this sort of thing without casting it as a "found footage" film, meaning there's an inescapable sense of doom that surrounds it. You watch a movie like this not expecting the people filming it to make it out alive. The footage we are seeing feels like their last will and testament. It's just a staple of the gimmick's conceit at this point.

And that sort of horror bleeds right into this thing. It's Colors by way of Cloverfield, only the big mutant monster we fear's around every corner is a gang of over-tattooed thug bandejos pendejos and cholitas. But it gets much stranger, and scarier than that too - these cops wander into horror movies every time they get out of their car - you find yourself on more than one occasion begging them not to tear down that sheet hanging in the dingy apartment! Lord knows what will be back there!

The first-person gimmick cuts both ways though - what works in getting you right in there into the action can also become a real distraction at times. I don't really mean the shakiness and rough look - I think I'm more tuned to it than most people but this film plays way too fast and loose with its own concept, and there are a lot of shots that we watch that are entirely impossible for us to be seeing. Cameras capturing things from vantage points that our characters don't have access to, or wouldn't be filming, the list goes on and on, and that stuff takes me right out of a movie. It's lazy, and it muddles why the concept's even being used. If you're just going to shoot whatever you want to, then why pretend half of the time?

Still, Gyllenhaal and Pena capably lead us through the rougher spots where the film's working against itself with charm and genuine heart and convincing modern manliness - they're goofs who're allowed to half-ass their way into heroism and question it after the fact, and then goof their way half-assed into worse and worse situations while actively trying to be something they never feel quite sure of; they're second- and third-guessing themselves in the middle of every moment. And the corners are filled out with some nice character beats from actors like Anna Kendrick and America Ferrera and Frank Grillo and David Harbour (as the resident hard-ass who doesn't see it coming. I'll leave it at that.)

End of Watch is out on September 28th.
Here's the just-released yesterday trailer!



iggy said...

bandejos = pendejos? maybe?

Laughed at the shot of a wedding where they do a "funny" dance. There was a similar scene in [Rec]3. I guess it takes some time for movies to catch up with what is hip. So long in fact, that it isn't hip anymore.

Also, shouldn't be Jake G. the one shirtless in the first shot? And shouldn't the promising crotch shot in the car be a real crotch shot?

Jason Adams said...

Yeah I guess "pendejos" is what I meant. I googled it before I posted it and google gave me an urban dictionary spelling like I was spelling it so that seemed good enough, but I'm sure you're right.

The movie is entirely sexless for us Jake fans, by the way. We see him laying in bed shirtless but all we can see is his back and shoulders, and that's really it skin-wise.

Roark said...

Shaved head is increasingly unflattering look for Mr. Gyllenhaal, though I suppose he's probably not meant to be particularly handsome here, right?

iggy said...

Now I'm not so sure, I don't use either of them. To me bandejo is like the male version of a bandeja (tray) which would be what? an ashtray?, but it may be an evolution of pendejo used in some areas mixing up banda (gang) + pendejo. I don't know, it just sounds redundant. Someone who joins a gang is already a pendejo in my eyes.

Nick B said...

Annoyed I have to wait until September -- just saw the trailer attached to The Avengers (along with new DKR trailer) and it looks great. BTW, you'll love Avengers. Spectacular all 'round. Summer's off to a great start. Enjoy!