I thought; "Man, that is a bit harsh." It hit me that my expectations for the film might have been a little high I didn't finish writing and didn't run it. The film I saw the following week, again, brought up the notion of expectations making, or sometimes breaking, the film viewing experience.
Was End of Watch a great film? No, it probably isn't even a good film but it suffers more from the fact that from previews, from the poster or just from its pedigree (director David Ayer wrote Training Day) you have expectations.
Please stop making movies that have a “reality-show-the-characters-are-shooting-this” premise. It is now extremely old hat. And, in any case, it has been done well only a handful of times and usually is forced and impedes the plot.
It is too late for the producer, director and writers of End of Watch to get this note but maybe someone else in Hollywood will see it and stop. Please…stop. I will cut some franchises like the Paranormal Activity films a little slack because they really cannot exist without the “characters are shooting this” thing. This is just a tired gimmick and it is badly done here.
End of Watch is the other side of the coin from last year’s Rampart starring Woody Harrelson. These are not bad cops like Harrelson’s character but good ones. This is a look at the gritty job they do. Unfortunately there is something not right about this movie. It meanders, it doesn’t seem real and it also drags to the point where when suspension of disbelief would usually kick in you notice inconsistencies in the plot.
Do the leaders of LA gangs really go out on a hit themselves? I thought that was what soldiers were for? Does a former Marine being attacked by heavily armed opponents not think to pick up a fully loaded AK-47? Do all Latin gangsters communicate by screaming constantly (it seems hard to really run a criminal enterprise that way)?
The dialog given the gangsters is pathetic. It truly is. And the acting is pretty eye-rolling as well. But I suppose it is difficult to make that crap readable.
But let us get back to “reality video”. Hardcore LA gangsters going on a drive by really videotape themselves—including the head of the gang? Really? If gangs were THAT dumb it would be pretty simple to prosecute them. And cops, on duty, wear mini cams on their uniforms and their fellow officers object only fleetingly? And one cop carries around a camera for a class?
None of it makes a lick of sense.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña do infuse their characters with some humanity. You believe guys like this might exist and you sort of like them. The film also has some isolated gruesome moments that both seem real and stand throughout the film like totem poles marking what the movie could have been.
There is even a shootout, chase that has some serious adrenalin. But none of it really falls into place. A movie doesn’t need to fall into place totally. Loose ends are fine. This isn’t about loose ends it is about “what is the point of all this?” What is it we are supposed to take away from the movie? Or were we supposed to just enjoy it? There isn’t enough real drama or real action in the movie for it to be an end in itself. There are not the characters for it to be a character piece (a la Rampart or The Bad Lieutenant where broader issues are on the side and one character rules)."
Even the POSTER for this film had me walking through the door expecting a more serious effort. As did the previews. I was expecting better and I didn't get it which made me harsher, both while watching the movie and after.
Then there is Looper.
I walked into Looper with no expectations at all. The cast, the poster, the previews--it all just sort of smelled like something that was going to stink. This isn't because the people in it are usually BAD. Bruce Willis has been in some great movies. He has also been in a lot of films where he seemed to just be cashing a paycheck. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was Robin but his resume is chock full of supporting roles. Emily Blunt is awesome of course but her resume isn't spotless.
Director Rian Johnson directed a few episodes of Breaking Bad, which is a good sign but it doesn't mean he is going to do Sci-Fi well.
But Looper is good. The performances are all solid. The time travel plot doesn't fall apart like furniture you put together without the instructions. It just all works. It probably isn't great but when you walk in expecting Time Cop and don't get it? It seems like you are watching Alien.
Part of the low expectations for the film come from the first previews. They made the film look like it was "partying youthful hitmen of the future." It isn't. The previews are not bad, they just paint a picture that is different from the reality of the film and for once the film is better than the previews.
Previews play a big role in expectations, of course. And it seems, more and more, that they are designed to get butts into seats by any means necessary--even by representing a film as something it isn't. I can see the meetings now....
"Bruce Willis is OLD, we need youth in the previews!"
(Not saying Willis is IN the film that much but I am going to bet something like this was bandied 'bout in the marketing meeting)
What can you, as a filmgoer, do about this? Probably nothing. It is probably mostly subconscious. Personally I refuse to give up my preview watching. I often like them better than the movies the advertise.