This review contains major plot points so don’t get all huffy if you read it before you go see it. But if you’re feeling dangerous go ahead…
End of Watch went straight on to my mental watch list of movies not just because I know Jake Gyllenhaal gives good beard (which is unfairly absent here) but because he knows how to switch it up.
He likes big budget – Prince of Persia, Day After Tomorrow; he likes mainstream rom-com with a heart – Love and Other Drugs, The Good Girl; and he likes hard-hitting drama – Jarhead, Rendition, Brothers, Brokeback Mountain – which I would slot buddy-cop movie End of Watch into.
When I say “buddy-cop” don’t be mistaken for Lethal Weapon’s Mel Gibson and Danny Glover type cop movie or Bad Boys’ Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s goofball pairing, no Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña (The Lincoln Lawyer, World Trade Centre) are well-researched, empathetic partners.
In an interview in the December edition of Total Film, Gyllenhaal and Peña answer the rumour that they didn’t get on whilst preparing for the movie with Peña admitting it was mainly him: “Jake’s a really open dude and it took me a while to get comfortable… It was tough for me to let my guard down.”
And after spending five months bonding, training and doing 12-hour ride-alongs with on-duty LAPD officers – where on Gyllenhaal’s first ride-along, he witnessed a murder (IMDb), in preparation for their roles as two police officers, Peña and Gyllenhaal definitely developed the perfect relationship to pull on the heart strings of the audience.
Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Peña) are partners in the LAPD, the movie follows them around on the day-to-day patrol around the ‘mean streets’ of the South Central area in LA.
Director David Ayer (S.W.A.T, Training Day, The Fast and the Furious) employs the found-footage element that has become a popular addition since Cloverfield, Chronicle, and [REC], with Taylor’s ‘film class project’ explaining the use of the digital camcorders. Admittedly it is sometimes oddly distracting, in the patrol car scenes it works well but is confusing when they attend crime scenes that they are not allowed to record and even stranger when the criminal gangs coincidentally like to carry their own camera equipment.
Ignoring that, the plot quickly develops when the partners attend an incident that rubs an undercover unit up the wrong way who are working on crimes connected to a Mexican drug cartel operating in the area, they’re told to “lay low” which Taylor doesn’t appreciate.
A side plot also comes in the form of Janet, (Anna Kendrick, Twilight, Up in the Air) Taylor’s love interest who he “connects with”. I’m not complaining about the inclusion of love, babies and marriage because it adds the emotional element to the movie about working as a police officer and the dangers they face affect those they leave at home everyday.
What I will complain about is how it’s shoe-horned in, Zavala’s wife and child on the way is realistically developed, but the way Ayer adds Janet seems like it’s just to a means to an end to complete Taylor’s search of a woman without having to sleep around and get so much “p*ssy”. Did Ayer suddenly change his mind about the character’s backstory and development half way through? Kendrick’s performance is ok but she certainly doesn’t add anything spectacular which is a shame because I really enjoyed her alongside George Clooney in Up in the Air.
Anyway I digress, Taylor and Zavala continue their routine, attending a fire in a house, rescuing children and receiving commendations, which doesn’t sit well with either of their respective halves, and saving the lives of their fellow officers in a particularly shocking scene.
As they unintentionally attend another crime scene related to the Mexicans, the two officers don’t heed the warning that comes from a criminal they reprehended earlier in the movie. He informs them that there is a possible hit out on the them by the drug cartel after they appear on their radar, this follows some more found footage from an unidentified source.
The main criminal gang who appear as the dogsbodies of the cartel is headed by ‘Big Evil’ who really have it in for Taylor and Zavalas, and just so happen to be the perfect people to take the cops down. All I’m going to say is they like to swear. They cuss and swear so bad it’s actually impossible to focus on what they’re really saying, I give anyone the task of counting how many variations of f**k were used because its. A. Lot.
I don’t want to go further into the final act because it is the best part of the movie, the ultimate face off between two sides of the law that leave you on the edge of your seat.
Gyllenhaal and Peña really play well off each other and the “buddy” part is the humour they display in their close bond, happily winding each other up to lighten the stresses with a real understanding for what it is to be a responsible cop with their emotions tied to the job coming through.
Supporting cast comes from a pretty unrecognisable America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) as tough female cop Orozco working on her home turf, her partner Davis played by Cody Horn (Magic Mike) who barely utters a full line, David Harbour (The Newsroom, Quantam of Solace) as sour faced cop Van Hauser and Frank Gizo (The Grey) as their Sarge.
Ignore the found footage aspect in End of Watch because it doesn’t need to distract you from the emotional bromance between Peña and Gyllenhaal, it’s the least important part of the movie which ultimately displays the “real deal” between the two actors.