Average User Score: 7.8Jun 30, 2013This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. With all of the lushly exquisite terrain and affluent neighborhoods that fill southern California, the concept of criminal activity ravishing the area may go wayside when conjuring mental images of this corner of the United States. End of Watch is determined to reinvigorate your imagination, even if it is done with a hyperbolic touch. The film tracks the Los Angeles police duo of Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal, Zodiac) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña, World Trade Center) as they struggle to subdue the rising threat of crime in an already lethal section of the ghetto. Writer-director David Ayer has crafted a thrilling story that only raises the stakes as it runs. Pervasive are the moments disguised to allow viewer recovery, but instead exploit the vulnerable moment and slap on another heavy turn. The scarce breathing room withstanding, Watch, a representation of very real issues, delivers in a spectacle, playing out like a Miami Vice highlights reel.
The team of officers are fresh off a successful shootout, killing two men following a wild car chase through the backstreets of a destitute landscape. The recognition for their work only flares the previously present arrogance raging in the veins the two officers. Taylor, currently in the midst of completing law school, has acquired a handheld camera, intending to record the future happenings of he and Zavala's patrol as part of an assignment for his film class. The handheld documentary style is used intermittently with the general photography of Roman Vasyanov (The East), but more interesting is the use of other handheld devices by multiple characters in the film. It is a connection between cop and criminal.
Their fame within the department is ephemeral as the two are reassigned to a different district. Quickly revealing itself as a much more problematic area, Taylor and Zavala face a couple unsettling cases. Conflict within the neighborhood is amplified by a drive-by shooting executed by members of the Hispanic "Curbside Gang." Marking the commencement of a turf war between the Hispanics and the blacks of the district, the film seems to be centering the ethnic battle as the driving conflict. However, the film makes an inexplicable desertion of this narrative, plowing onward under alternative guidance. Instead, the story takes focus with the Curbside Gang and it's don, Mr. Big Evil (It's because his "evil is big").
Having noticed heavy traffic leading to a from Evil's house, Taylor steps outside his realm of duty to play private investigator. He and Zavala begin to become more suspicious of the residence when they recover cash being transported away from the house. They storm the house to make a horrifying discovery: upwards of thirty people are being held captive in a human trafficking business. Mr. Big Evil is not just a local threat, but with his ties to Mexican cartels, he is a force to be reckoned with in the southwestern United States. Even worse, Taylor and Zavala have now presented themselves to be a persistent annoyance to the operations of the cartels, tagging themselves a target on their back.
Mr. Big Evil's coterie brews a plan to rid themselves of the pestering cops. As the madness unfolds, the militants of the Curbside Gang look more like phantasmal creatures plucked from the virtual reality of Grand Theft Auto and less like a shrewdly wicked conglomerate. The borderline suicidal manner in which this crew operates doesn't suit the furtive pattern established by the villains in the rest of the film. Using the handheld cameras furthers an impractical sense. Yes, Taylor and Zavala bring hell upon themselves with their intrepid hunger for action, but the chronic documentary style comes off as purposeless and superfluous in adding to their immaturity. No final product ever comes of Taylor's "film project" that is frequently mentioned.
Despite all of this, copious screen time is devoted to the powerful relationship between Taylor and Zavala. Gyllenhaal and Peña display an exceptional chemistry through endearing back-and-forth prodding about their respective love lives. It is the result of sitting elbow-to-elbow in a car for 10 hours a day, the production of enduring fatal possibilities daily. The bond tightens and the emotional investments swell with the Taylor's marriage to Janet (Anna Kendrick, Up in the Air). Mr. Big Evil's threat now surpasses the potential to break a friendship; marriages and families could be torn asunder.
Ultimately, Watch is much more than it's visual dazzle. There exists a narrative that, at times, overshadows the shock of criminal activity. There are times in cinema when it is commendable for a film to overstep boundaries. After all, a film that fails to overachieve excites more than one that succeeds to underachieve. Watch comes off as one of these films aspiring to overachieve. It's audacity is far from destructive, but works as an abrasive touch.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.2Jun 30, 2013Contemporary cinema is a juggernaut producer of romance films tracing a couples' elevation of compassion to a seemingly immortal love. ThisContemporary cinema is a juggernaut producer of romance films tracing a couples' elevation of compassion to a seemingly immortal love. This commonplace depiction of love certainly evokes a grandiose falsity: love is easy and love invincibly endures. When the last frame vanishes from the screen, the dominating denouement is of course one teeming with superficial catharsis. With Blue Valentine, it's as if Derek Cianfrance, the film's co-writer and director, felt that the phrase "gag me" had floated through his thoughts one too many times. Just as Dean (Ryan Gosling), the husband of the film's centerpiece marriage, ruefully admits, "Maybe I've seen too many movies, you know, love at first sight?" Among the ubiquity of portrayals of conquering affection, Cianfrance's Valentine audaciously confronts the pernicious obstacles of relationships that other films apprehensively hurdle and dodge.
When we first meet Dean and Cindy (Michelle Williams), they are married couple parenting a bubbly daughter Franky (Faith Wladyka). The film's first 15 minutes are surely reminiscent of many parents' typical morning, as Dean and Cindy soldier on to their separate jobs, painting and nursing. Nevertheless, as drama strikes the family with the death of their beloved dog, we begin to realize that Dean and Cindy's marriage is in mid crumble.
The film advances in a non-linear fashion, jumping back and forth from the early formations of the relationship to current time. The juxtaposition of Dean and Cindy's blooming interest for one another against their distinctly deteriorated state proficiently elaborates what Cianfrance intends to address. In one moment, as Cindy skips playfully to Dean's ukelele performance, it is confounding to imagine how this darling unity could possibly be anything else. The time flipping is charged with such a hyper contrast of building ardor and corroding tension that Valentine drags the viewer along a whirl of undulating emotion. Part of Cianfrance's genius is pitting the slowly culminating eruption alongside an equally forceful bonding.
Let there be no debate, Gosling and Williams astound. Seldom do two characters band to form a relationship that conjures nearly simultaneous heartrending and refreshing sensations with the effectiveness exhibited in Valentine. Williams lassos viewers with her inhabitation of the severe character arc, bridging the slightly younger sanguine persona and the hopeless mother version of Cindy. Gosling has seldom entranced as well as during the hospital scene, the climactic portion of the film. Arriving drunk to Cindy's place of work, Dean has come with no purpose in mind, only to diffuse an enormity of pent frustration. While the tension unfurls in real time, one is desperately tempted to keel over in sickness at Dean's paining as he is stripped down to nothingness at the hand of Cindy's vicious words.
Indeed, Valentine tackles head on agonizing truths about the vulnerability of love and the mortality of feelings, but the film holds an interesting structure. The flashbacks collectively represent a time span of multiple months, but the scenes in current time sum to just over a single day. Years of time sit in between the two narratives. This formula makes for a truly enlightening cinematic experience, for without it, the film would simply be a story of meaningless patchwork. The film's gaping hole is fitting; Valentine does not intend to dole out all the answers. If it did, the film would take a seat tantamount to a myriad of others in the romance genre. The history of Dean and Cindy is one of sophisticated love, one that unassumingly reaches into the dark, unknowing of what is to come.… Expand