The film follows the life of two young officers, showing us their work, fears, aspirations, love, rest, happiness and grief. They 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.
The trailer to the film was very promising: one could not tell from those couple of minutes as to what was going to happen in the film, or what the film is about. It all looked just tense, bloody and sweaty ode to policemen – something to look forward to. The problem is that even after watching the movie I cannot tell what the film is about, or why on earth it appeared in the way it did.
The whole movie is done in the mockumentary style: at the very start the main character flashes the camera that he has, and then most of the film the action is shown “as seen” by him – all the talk, all the jokes. It was supposed to give the audience the intimacy and the from-the-first-hand feeling of actually sitting in the police car with the cops or joining them in their operations. Those casual cameras are everywhere: one in the hand of Brian Taylor, two on their uniform, couple in the car – the life of those fictitious cops has been carefully documented.
As if that was not enough, the storyline was brushed up to give us maximum realism. There are many little stories, little jokes, little monologues and conversations, to resemble the real life, with all its complexity and simplicity. The characters come and go and return, and all we have is this couple of cops, best friends, professionals to whom we are supposed to empathise fully come the end of the film. Well, at least that was the plan of the authors.
Now about how it actually feels. I have never been a big fan of the “shaky” camera, which, for example, annoyed no end in Hunger Games, but here is the absolute level of atrocity aimed at the inner ear. Because the camera is in the hands of the cop, authors thought it would be great to force him to shake it as much as he can. By the end of the film I was so seasick that the camera rotating 360 degrees every other minute was chasing me in nightmares. The scenes of Los Angeles from the helicopter felt like oasis – several seconds to have a rest watching steady picture. I presume that this shaky camera was done on purpose, to give us extra feeling of involvement – but in real life I never shake my head ecstatically, how can I feel that way?
Then the storyline. Authors probably thought that it was good idea not to have set storyline written in the literature style – instead they have a collection of anecdotes about the life of the two cops. That was probably done, again, for further involvement and all of that, but as the result the movie became absolutely unwatchable in terms of the storytelling. The film picks up the storyline, then drops it, then picks the other one, then drops it and returns to the first one, everything without sense of direction or general understanding of purpose. Aiming to show us the life, authors missed enormously. The story of our lives, I believe, is always beautiful in its consistency, in its fluency. There is no need to invent the wheel to show interesting lives – all you need to do is to show them as they are.
These shortcomings are shameful for two reasons. First is that a very promising film style, mockumentary, has been compromised badly by this movie. Why to choose it if in the end you get mumbling mess stuck somewhere in between the documentary and fictitious movies? End of Watch is the mock part of “mockumentary”, and this is shameful.
Secondly, and the reason why I wrote so much about the movie, is that the film about cops is very long overdue. The guardians of law and order (not detectives, but cops) deserve a proper anthem made on celluloid tape, something that will highlight them, and not bury their day-to-day patriotic heroism behind some trendy inventions. This movie was supposed to be about cops, but it is not about them. They deserve Apollo 13 as the professional movie, not the nausea-inducing inconsistent mock of the documentary.