Movie review catch-up: Looper and End of Watch

So, it turns out there are 2 movies that I never got around to reviewing fully. Seeing as they will shortly be available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray in South Africa, now’s the ideal time to rectify my oversight.

Looper was probably the most highly acclaimed sci-fi movie of 2012. Mixing crime noir, action and domestic drama among other things, the film is an undeniably ambitious and intelligent time travel tale, largely free of headaches. Still, even with so much hype, you never can tell…

Looper takes place in a future when the US economy has collapsed and a small percentage of the population has developed minor telekinetic abilities. In this setting the mob uses illicit time travel to eliminate its enemies – sending them back decades for extermination by Loopers, young hitmen living the high life in 2044. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Joe is one of these Loopers, and his dreams seem to be on track until he has to execute his future self (Bruce Willis), who promptly escapes. Young Joe must stay ahead of his furious employers and work out what future Joe wants with a farm-dwelling woman (Emily Blunt) and her precocious son (Pierce Gagnon).

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Looper isn’t short on memorable scenes, striking conceptually and in terms of stylish cinematography. Unfortunately though, the film does a complete direction – and genre – change halfway through, essentially casting aside all the scenarios it has set up. The 2 Joes just head off in different directions to do their own thing instead of continually facing off.

This isn’t to say the second half of Looper has nothing to offer. Willis is more badass than usual, Levitt does a nifty impersonation of the Die Hard star throughout the film while still retaining his own identity, and Gagnon steals every scene he’s in. It’s just that in essentially restarting your film halfway through, it takes ages to build up momentum again. This results in some serious pacing problems.

Ultimately Looper is a tad overrated, veering off course from its true potential.

3.5 stars out of 5.

End of Watch:
There’s no question that the “found footage” style of filmmaking has been overdone lately… particularly in the genres of horror and sci-fi. More and more, moviemakers are straining to integrate the stylistic trope with the plot of their films without feeling convoluted. Frequently, they fail. This said, while gritty police thriller End of Watch demonstrates an inconsistent use of the approach, it nonetheless is a highly effective and involving example of a “home footage” film. In fact, it ranks up there with the best ever made.

Essentially End of Watch follows two Los Angeles police officers ( Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) as they complete their daily patrols of South Central LA, an area prone to drug dealing and gang violence. The two beat cops – partners and best friends – goof around, break rules and, following their gut more often than not, end up enraging a drug cartel.

With its episodic “day in the life” format, it isn’t always clear where End of Watch is going. Particularly to begin with. However, as the apparently random events stack up, an ominous direction emerges. Spoiler alert: As with the vast majority of “found footage” films, End of Watch doesn’t have a happy ending.

The film isn’t dour, though. It’s both interesting and charming, carried by the convincing camaraderie of Gyllenhaal and Pena. Their interactions are so natural that at times you’re convinced they’re ad libbing entire scenes. And lest you think End of Watch is some posturing boys’ club movie, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, Cody Horn and America Ferrera all turn in solid performances as the women the policemen love and work with every day.

End of Watch comes highly recommended – one of those little-seen gems that wins you over with its realism and credibility without you even realising it.

4 stars out of 5.


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