‘End of Watch’ offers respectable portrayal of young police

Mi­chael Pena (left) and Jake Gyl­len­haal star in the cop drama ‘End of Watch.’


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. ••

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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