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September 22, 2012 | 12:00 p.m. CST
Mediocrity is what one would expect from a blockbuster, ego-throbbing action movie with an ambiguous trailer — and oh, man, did it deliver. Rarely does one see a film so dazzlingly average, so terrifically decent as End of Watch.
The film is meant to look like it was documented primarily by various characters’ handheld cameras, as well as hidden lapel cameras on the two protagonist cops, played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. Gyllenhaal’s character, who also goes to school part time, is shooting footage for a class project; although why Los Angeles cartel runners are riding around with handhelds is conveniently unexplained. The camera work overall comes off as occasionally forced, but still OK.
Gyllenhaal’s and Peña’s characters are goofy and irresponsible best friends — somewhere in the middle ground between real cops and Super Troopers. The character quirks do get laid on a little heavy at times, though. When it works, it’s charming; when it doesn’t, you roll your eyes and keep chugging. The movie barrels through the two cops’ flippancy and careens from one to another of an inexhaustible number of lighthearted jabs at each other’s racial stereotypes.
The hinge of the film weighs the two cops’ immature carelessness in one of L.A.’s most dangerous areas against their mounting responsibilities as family men. These flashes across time are clunky, but in the end satisfactory, as they set the film up for some serious drama.
A solid, tearjerker ending catapults this movie into adequacy, although it carries on a little long. This incredibly ordinary movie is definitely tolerable, so go see it, unless, you know, you don’t want to.