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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: End of Watch

January 21st, 2013

End of Watch - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

End of Watch was released in September, which is usually a terrible sign. It didn't seem like a bad movie from the trailer, and there was a lot of buzz going in, but still, that release date is usually a death sentence. Its reviews turned out to be better than expected, award-worthy, in fact. But it was only able to become a midlevel hit. Granted, it was profitable thanks to its low budget and it is one of the best runs for the studio. Will it be able to find an audience on the home market?

The Movie

Brian Taylor begins the film by telling us about being a cop while we watch him and Mike Zavala being involved in an extended car chase, which ends in a brutal shootout. As a result, they were taken on the beat while it was investigated.

When we see them next, Officer Taylor is filming his life on the job for school (He's pre-law, but needs an art elective.) He drags Zavala into it, and for that matter, everyone else in the precinct. It's their first day back and their first call involves a drunk man, Mr. Tre (Cle Shaheed Sloan), accosting a mailman. When they arrive, he becomes belligerent, and after throwing a couple of racist slurs against Zavala challenges him to a fight. The two go at it and Zavala comes out on top, but when they arrest him, they don't charge him with assaulting a police office, which is a felony, and would have sent him to prison forever. It earns them his respect. Later, while telling his fellow gang members about the cops treating him right, the gang Mr. Tre runs with is attacked by a Mexican gang in a drive-by shooting.

In-between calls, including a disturbing missing child case, a house party that is generating noise complaints, and a daring rescue, we learn more about Taylor and Zavala's personal lives. Zavala is married to Gabby and is constantly trying to get Taylor to date a Mexican girl, perhaps one of his many cousins. Taylor is interested in finding someone to settle down with, and finally finds someone, Janet, and not only are they a perfect match, but Gabby and Janet get along really well also.

Meanwhile, Taylor and Zavala begin investigating Big Evil, the leader of a local Mexican gang, and this has unintended consequences.

End of Watch is a found footage / shaky cam movie, which is probably why is struggled somewhat at the box office. That's a genre that is played out. Much of the film is shot by the characters, or is taken from dashboard cameras, but fortunately, it doesn't feel like a gimmick. In fact, thanks to the amazing chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, this intimate filming style makes the movie feel more real. I don't know how well they knew each other before they made this movie, but it's like they've been friends for a decade. I believe humor is the salt of storytelling. Just like salt helps bring out the flavors in cooking, humor helps bring out the other elements in movies. The humorous moments in this movie help bring out the dramatic and tense moments, and there are plenty of those in the film.

The film was written and directed by David Ayer and this is not the first time he's tackled this territory. His previous films include Training Day, Dark Blue, Harsh Times, as well as less serious looks at similar subjects. He certainly knows how to create a realistic and tense depiction of the Los Angeles streets. The film certainly deserves its two Independent Spirit Award nominations and I'm a little disappointed it did perform better.

The Extras

Extras on the DVD and the Blu-ray begin with an audio commentary track with David Ayer. There are also 46 minutes of deleted scenes, which is a huge amount. There are also ten minutes of featurettes, but unfortunately, each one is too short to really be engaging. The Blu-ray also has BD-live, pocketBLU, bookmarking, etc. and it comes with the DVD and a digital copy.

The film's technical presentation is mixed. Since the film is shot with a number of different and cheap cameras, there are a number of issues in the video. However, this was an aesthetic choice and you can't fault the transfer for artifacting, noise, contrast issues, etc. The film is supposed to look like it was shot with a dashboard camera and it looks like it. To emphasize, this is what the filmmakers wanted the film to look like, and the Blu-ray does an amazing job at preserving that look. Likewise, there's not a lot of activity in the surround sound speakers, again because the filmmakers wanted the movie to feel like it was shot by the characters and not filmed by a Hollywood film crew. It does have good separation and there's enough activity to envelop the viewer.

The Blu-ray cost 30%, or $5 more than the DVD, which is a good price.

The Verdict

End of Watch is the best release of the week and while there are not a ton of extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray Combo Pack, it is a contender for Pick of the Week.

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Filed under: Video Review, End of Watch, Maurice Compte, Jake Gyllenhaal, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, Michael Peña, David Ayer