Many movies depict police officers as crooked, rogue, power-hungry thugs, so I found it nice to see End of Watch, a movie that heartily portrays the police as heroes.
It’s a bit of a surprising turn from writer/director David Ayer, who notably penned one of the most well-known crooked cop films, Training Day, which won Denzel Washington a Best Actor Oscar.
In End of Watch, Ayer continues to draw from his South Central Los Angeles roots to tell the story of two young LAPD officers. Neither of the leads put in Academy Award-winning performances, but it’s still well-acted.
The officers are Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal), a former Marine, and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena), who joined the force shortly after graduating from high school. Mike is married to his high school sweetheart, Gabby (Natalie Martinez), who is expecting their first child. Brian has recently met Janet (Anna Kendrick) and a whirlwind courtship ensues.
The guys are assigned to patrol one of the most dangerous ’hoods in L.A.
In the beginning of the movie, I found the plot a little thin and kept wondering what the movie was really about. It definitely seemed like a collection of ride-alongs or a big screen version of Cops for a good little while. Brian and Mike spend a lot of time doing routine cop stuff, like chasing drug dealers, rescuing a family from a burning house and investigating a report of a missing child.
Brian is also taking a film class, so he’s shooting video from his everyday life as part of a school project. There is a camera attached to his lapel that people are constantly telling him to turn off.
Brian’s video recordings of his police duties combined with footage from the police car dashboard camera gives the movie a “mockumentary” or found footage style. I have been fairly open about my dislike for this technique in the past. It’s still annoying in End of Watch, but it kind of worked in making things seem more realistic.
Eventually, the plot took a turn for the better and things picked up as the guys unknowingly became the targets of a Mexican drug cartel. The ending was violent, action-packed and emotional, which was definitely what I hoped for in an action police flick.
It was a little difficult for me to believe Gyllenhaal as a police officer as he seems like more of the romantic-lead type than the action hero. Still, Gyllenhaal and Pena had good buddy chemistry as their roles lighthearted mocking of their personalities and cultural differences. Although Pena filled the stereotypical Latino sidekick role as he has often done in previous roles, his back and forth with Gyllenhaal came off as natural and realistic.
Cody Horn (Magic Mike) and America Ferrera (Ugly Betty) had small, but interesting roles as two female officers, Davis and Orozco. This got me to thinking it might be good to see a similar movie about female cops working in a dangerous area.
End of Watch offers a respectful portrayal of the men in blue who put their lives on the line every day. It was not always riveting, but had enough intense and suspenseful scenes that make it worth checking out. ••