Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour
Release date: September 21st, 2012
Distributor: Open Road Films
Running time: 110 minutes
Best part: The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Pena.
Worst part: The confusing mix of steady-cam and video footage.
From L.A. Confidential to hit TV series The Shield, entertainment continually presents a nasty yet somewhat realistic look at cops and criminals in one of the United State’s largest cities; filled with the most inhumane gangs and law enforcers in history. End of Watch however conveys an updated representation of the L.A. cop cliché, creating believable characters whom best describe themselves as the thin blue line between predator and prey.
Following yet another police ride-a-long in the modern Hollywood film-making era, Officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) capture the seedy underbelly of South Central L.A. in more ways than one. Following the continuing trend of found footage cinematography, Taylor and Zavala place small cameras on the police car dashboard and their clothing to capture the lives of L.A’s most respectable cops. Filming for a university class in Taylor’s Law degree, the partners encounter ‘regular’ incidences such as unwilling informants, car chases and shoot outs. The decorated partnership is faced with its biggest threat upon busting multiple crimes linked to a Mexican drug cartel. Becoming the cartel’s biggest targets, they must protect themselves, their families and the innocent people of lower class L.A.
Capturing a unique perspective of a dangerous situation, the irritating tropes of found footage filmmaking are thankfully enlightened by the subject matter being documented. David Ayer (writer of Training Day, director of Harsh Times and Street Kings) has evolved as a director with each presentation of LA’s cop vs. criminal system. Leaving behind the fantastical action tropes and over-the-top characters of Street Kings, End of Watch is his most accurate and engaging account of modern police officers struggling with the day to day. The hand-held film-making style conveys a similar aesthetic as the controversial reality TV series Cops, capturing a gritty and affecting view of L.A’s finest. The cinematography however distracts from the overall appeal of this smart crime-thriller. Despite the action sequences, police searches and crime scenes being presented with affecting realism and intense performances, the constantly shaking camera affects the continuity of each important sequence.
End of Watch finds a unique balance between story and character. Creating a thought provoking insight into the work of the L.A. police force, the film concentrates on its main characters as much as the oncoming gangland threat. Both Taylor and Zavala provide a first hand perspective of the dangerous and uncomfortable positions they put themselves through everyday. Continually breaking the fourth wall, descriptions of investigative techniques and the police station itself create an intelligent yet engaging hands on approach. The film also provides an enjoyable balance between 80s crime thriller and kinetic action flick. The violence, similar to Ayer’s previous work, is depicted as the most important factor in a cop’s line of work. Bullet holes, severed heads and skewered eyes are presented in an affecting manner, creating a much more realistic account of police work than many conventional action-thrillers of its type. The City of God-like look at multiple gangs in one city provides a broader look at the battle L.A. police continually fight. However, the overtly brash stereotypes of Mexican and African-American gangs create little more than an obvious representation of L.A’s crime problem.
“The LAPD’s got a big F*cking cock!” (Van Hauser (David Harbour), End of Watch).
The film is lifted by Taylor and Zavala. They present themselves with the determination and moral core necessary for their work on the front lines. Having become used to every horrific crime scene, threat and response imaginable, they create a somewhat witty and sarcastic look at the line of duty. Somewhat silly at times, Taylor and Zavala lend an emotional centre to a story affectingly capturing the most remorseless area of L.A. Gyllenhaal and Pena are the core of the film, providing two of the most charismatic and heroic characters in recent memory. Showing a touching and heart-warming look at their loving relationships, the chemistry between everyone involved provides a brave look at an unhealthy situation. The car becomes a safe setting for both officers, willing to openly, poignantly and hilariously discuss their relationships, personalities and existential problems. Gyllenhaal continues to prove his acting prowess, adding his determined and enjoyable performance here to his similarly commendable work in Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac. While Michael Pena may hopefully achieve notoriety with his turn as the funny yet cynical police partner.
End of Watch, aided by an enjoyable cast and crew, is a testament to the hard work certain A-listers willingly undertake. Thanks to Ayer, Gyllenhaal and Pena, this crime-thriller takes charge and delivers a worthwhile 2-hour distraction. Hooah!