END OF WATCH
Studio: Universal/Open Road/Exclusive Media
Length: 1 hr 50 mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, (AVC @ 32 mbps)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (@ an average 3.5 mbps, up to 5.1 mbps in the big scenes)
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Content Rating: R (Strong Violence, Some Disturbing Images, Pervasive Language including Sexual References, Some Drug Use)
Release Date: January 22, 2013
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrara, Frank Grillo, David Harbour and Maurice Compte
Written and Directed by: David Ayer
Film Rating: 2 ½/5
There’s a germ of a good idea in End of Watch, the latest police thriller from David Ayer, the writer of Training Day and Dark Blue. The basic concept is to track two uniformed LAPD street cops, Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Michael Pena) as they encounter various problems during their usual shifts. The trick here is that much of the movie consists of “found footage”, where the various characters are themselves holding the cameras, whether they be camcorders, iPhones, dashboard cameras or other tiny movie recorders. On paper, this is an interesting idea, promising a greater level of immediacy and thus a greater level of danger for the characters and the audience. In practice, this simply winds up being distracting and irritating in short order. Gyllenhaal and Pena are both very good in their roles, as are several supporting actors, particularly Frank Grillo as their Sergeant in one drunken monologue and Maurice Compte as a dangerous gangbanger known as “Big Evil”. One would wish that the movie could have worked better, but it comes across as disjointed, with more than half of the movie going by before the main plotline is clear enough for anyone to figure out what is going on. And the “found footage” idea goes in and out, as the filmmakers are forced back into conventional coverage for many of the scenes.
SPOILERS: The movie has been promoted as being about the two cops running up against a major drug cartel, which is eventually true. But this belies the point that at least an hour goes by before anything like that is happening. Instead, the movie consists of a series of vignettes of the guys on patrol, dealing with varying levels of danger and nastiness. One night, it’s the old “pull the child out of the burning building” routine; another night, it’s an example of how quickly a routine situation can turn bloody and lethal; another night, it’s a case (taken from a real situation) where crack addicts have abused their children. Eventually, between the patrol vignettes and glimpses of the guys with their women off duty, the story coalesces around a threat coming from the cartel. And things finally build to a bloody night where the cops make what winds up being their last stand, which is probably the best material in the movie. (It should be noted that the original story for the movie was designed to have both men die, but David Ayer decided this was a bit too much, so he pulled back from that idea by a hair.) The problem here is that the overall story is just too oblique. It’s fine that the characters aren’t seeing how the various situations are connected, but it’s not fine for the audience to be left in the dark most of the time too. And when the kill order is actually given from Mexico, the movie then turns to an outlandish idea of having it caught somehow on ICE surveillance, which would mean that ICE was intentionally complicit in the matter. (It’s also a bit too much on the nose, when you think about it.)
End of Watch will be released on Blu-ray and standard definition this week. The DVD and the Blu-ray share their special features, including a commentary track, deleted and alternate scenes and a few quick featurettes on the movie. Of course, the Blu-ray package includes both discs. Instructions for downloading a digital copy and getting an Ultraviolet copy are also included in the package.
VIDEO QUALITY 4/5
End of Watch is presented in a 1080p AVC 1.85:1 transfer that does what it can with the limited range of the low-end cameras chosen for use in this production. The issue here isn’t the transfer – it’s that the movie itself doesn’t have much to offer in terms of picture quality. There are a few beautiful shots of sunsets or of the Los Angeles skyline at night, but much of the material here is deliberately murky. Which is of course what happens when you shoot your movie with cameras like this.
AUDIO QUALITY 4 ½/5
End of Watch is presented in a full-throated English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix which has a satisfying level of atmosphere and directionality. The surrounds and the subwoofer get a solid workout, both from the multiple action sequences and from the frequent use of rap beats on the soundtrack. At the same time, some of the dialogue is unclear – but this is not a failing of the sound mix. It’s a matter of the dialogue being presented in a fast, clipped manner that’s as full of jargon in its own way as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy last year.
SPECIAL FEATURES 3/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of End of Watch comes with several special features, including a commentary track, many deleted and alternate scenes, and a few quick featurettes about the movie’s production.
My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.
BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online.
pocket BLU – This Blu-ray includes the usual pocket BLU functionality, enabling viewers with appropriate laptop, iPad or smart phone integration to remotely control their Blu-ray player and access some of the bonus content from the separate device. Also, a digital copy is available for download via the pocket BLU application.
Feature Commentary with David Ayer (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – David Ayer provides a thoughtful and quite thorough scene-specific commentary throughout the movie. He starts with the origins of the idea of doing a cop movie out of found footage, and then discusses each sequence in terms of performance, concept and execution. He also takes time to answer some questions likely to come up for viewers, including assurances that no harm came to a cat who ran out in between the cars during a dashboard cam chase. SOME SPOILERS HERE: He also addresses an obvious moment of discomfort when the guys find children who have been duct taped by their mother, saying that the real children were actually not taped or hurt, and that their mothers were present and next to them the whole time. (One still wonders about the issue of doing it in the first place, but Ayer firmly states that this was directly based on a real situation that came from the tech advisor…) Ayer also addresses the fact that he originally designed the movie to end with the deaths of both of the cops but wound up pulling it back to not go quite that far.
The following materials are presented in high definition on the Blu-ray. If they are also available on the DVD, they would obviously be presented in standard definition there:
Deleted Scenes (17 Scenes, 46:14 Total, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – No less than seventeen deleted or alternate versions of scenes are presented here, including an abandoned charity fight (to establish Mike’s fighting ability), a longer version of Frank Grillo’s excellent monologue, and about five minutes of mostly MOS footage of the alternate version of the ending. There are MANY SPOILERS in these scenes, particularly the ending, so I strongly recommend not watching this material until after having seen the movie.
Fate With a Badge (2:10, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This quick featurette provides a very fast introduction to the movie, using a few words out of the opening narration, followed by a bunch of clips from the movie and a few quick sound bites from the cast and director.
In the Streets (2:10, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This is another quick featurette, using much of the same clips from the movie, only using different sound bites from the cast to sprinkle around them.
Women on Watch (2:00, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Here’s another quick featurette, once again using many of the same clips, only now focusing the sound bites on the participation of the female characters and cast. David Ayer makes an inexplicable comment here about trying to find the softer and lighter side of the characters here…
Watch Your Six (2:35, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – In a surprising development, this quick featurette uses, that’s right, the same clips, only with a few different sound bites, this time discussing the danger element of uniformed patrols.
Honors (2:04, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – You’re probably thinking that they couldn’t just use the same movie clips for the fifth time, right? Wrong! Here we go again, with the same clips but a few different sound bites, only this time to earn the “Honors” title, there are a few snippets of positive reviews thrown in as bumpers. In summary about these featurettes, I have to note that the total running time is just under 11 minutes, much of which is taken up with the same trailer voiceover and the same clips being repeated over and over and over. Seriously, this is an annoying trend. They could have just had a single featurette running maybe 5-6 minutes and called it a day. Code word: BADGE.
DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the theatrical cut of the movie. It contains the movie presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 1.85:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English (448 kbps). The special features from the Blu-ray are included on the DVD.
Digital and Ultraviolet Copies – Instructions are included in the packaging for downloading a digital copy of the movie to your laptop or portable device, as well as for obtaining an Ultraviolet streaming copy to be placed up in the cloud. No deadline for activation is indicated on the insert. I note again that the pocket BLU online menu also includes an option for downloading the digital copy.
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.
IN THE END...
End of Watch has its moments, but they’re just too few and far between to make the movie anything more than a curiosity. Too much of the movie consists of the two lead characters on their patrol without anything significant to the story happening, and the actual plot winds up being compressed into a short period in the second half of the movie. There is a reason that reality TV shows are actually edited down into a dramatic version of what was shot, and this movie is a testament to the need for dramatic structure in any story. The Blu-ray edition presents the movie as well as it can, given the limited picture quality from the source, but there’s at least a thorough commentary by David Ayer and a good look at many alternate scenes and an alternate ending. Fans of David Ayer or of the cast may want to rent this if they have a free evening.
January 20, 2013
Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:
Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at ISF picture mode
-Set professionally calibrated by AVICAL in June 2012
Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player
PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)
5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)
2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)
Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer
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