I went into End of Watch thinking that Hollywood was just spoon-feeding us a simulated reality of what cop life was like. I expected things like forced, unnatural dialogue, vintage cop clichés and a poorly-planned story.
To my surprise, director David Ayer gave us something that we haven’t really seen before.
Right off the bat, the audience sees the life of a cop through a camera carried around by Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal). He and his partner, Mike Zavala (Michael Pena), are involved in a car chase, which ends up in a shootout with two men in the other vehicle.
It results in them killing the suspects, and they are assigned to a different area of patrol. This is where you start seeing the majority of the movie through Taylor’s camera, along with ones mounted in the cruiser and the actual movie cameras.
The angles are one of the best elements in the film because of the fact that you really don’t miss a thing or have a bad line of sight, since they are everywhere and constantly switching to different spots. I saw many reviews where a lot of people didn’t like this aspect and complained of it making them sick, but I can tell you, it really adds to the experience.
After seeing the duo tackle a few typical cop calls involving a domestic disturbance and running red lights, the story begins to unfold.
While being posted up in their area they witness a man make a pick up at a house they know to be involved in gang activities. They follow the car and pull the man over to find wads of cash and guns with “more bling than the old lady’s wedding ring.” Without spoiling the rest of the plot, I can say that Taylor and Zavala make a few more shocking discoveries, only to be tipped off that the Cartel has started to make moves into the neighborhood they patrol. They are advised to keep their noses out of it, but hey, they’re the heroes.
There’s one more advantage that this movie has over other police films and most movies in general: you never know if one of the main characters is going to die. In a typical movie, you can foretell when the good guy is going to live and when it’s his time to go, but in this one, you really are on your toes during the duration of the time they are on screen. Every corner they check, every door they open, you never know when one is going to take a bullet or get assaulted by a waiting enemy. It’s what really keeps the bond of the characters so close.
Between action sequences or movements in plot, there is a camera on the hood of their cruiser aimed in the windshield recording them. These are the points where they tell stories, talk about everyday life, joke around, and you truly appreciate and understand the bond that the two have as brothers on the force.
I have never been a big fan of Jake Gyllenhaal in the past, but mostly because of the movies he’s starred in (The Day After Tomorrow, Prince of Persia) and not his actual performances. Nonetheless, he plays a perfect cop, and Michael Pena, who I liked in Shooter, plays the perfect partner. Gyllenhaal plays a more classy American cop looking for true love and thinking a lot of the time, while Pena plays a wise-cracking Spanish cop full of humor aimed at both himself and his nationality, as well as Gyllenhaal.
They mesh perfectly and there are no awkward or boring moments when they are on-screen together.
The only piece that this movie was really missing was a satisfactory ending. Although it does end unexpectedly, it causes a mix of emotions. Unfortunately, it does leave you wanting just a little bit more.
If you’re hesitant on seeing End of Watch because of the actors or the plot, let those feelings go. This movie got favorable reviews from critics and finished its first weekend at the top of the box office and still sits there now, earning eight out of 10 stars from me.