End of Watch

PhotobucketTwo beat cops are partners as well as buddies. Together they serve and protect South Central Los Angeles. One is married, the other has just met a girl. In their regular patrolling of the area they routinely have entertaining conversations. Observe Jake Gyllenhaal as Officer Brian Taylor and Michael Peña as Officer Mike Zavala lob good natured insults at each other that reference cultural stereotypes. Their jokes belie an obvious friendship. In their day to day rounds, they stumble upon a dangerous Mexican drug cartel.

On paper, the plot unfolds like any generic buddy cop film. But in the hands of writer/director David Ayer, the tale deeply engages the viewer. He appears to have a fascination with the LAPD. Clearly he has a love for this material. Ayer has an ear for well written dialogue as this script is on a par with his memorable screenplays for The Fast and the Furious, Training Day and S.W.A.T. Apparently third time is the directing charm as this movie blows his previously helmed efforts (2006’s Harsh Times and 2008’s Street Kings) out of the water.

If the picture had a major failing it’s in the cinematography. Officer Taylor has been documenting his life on the job for a class he’s taking. His shots are the video that we the audience see. The “found footage” milieu can play havoc on one’s eyesight. Granted it gives the action a visceral, “you are there” experience. However one fight between Michael Peña’s character and a street tough devolves into a wrestling match with wildly spinning visuals that are likely to make you seasick.

End of Watch has a point of view that is thankfully unexpected. Given the prevailing attitudes toward LA cops, the positive outlook reads highly original in this day and age. The account is surprisingly laudatory. I was expecting a much different portrayal. Why only back in February, Woody Harrelson’s character in Rampart presented a decidedly pessimistic view of LA cops. But this tribute to the good men and women in blue never feels sappy. The charisma of actors Gyllenhaal and Peña should not be underestimated. They carry many scenes simply of the strength of their casual easy going chemistry. We genuinely care about these guys. The narrative is intense, exciting and realistic. Everything a police drama should be. It renders what happens a profoundly moving experience.

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16 Responses to “End of Watch”

  1. Good review, I was pleasantly surprised by how positive a spin the movie put on the LAPD while still maintaining a strong feel of realism. I think the only thing I might disagree with you on is that I actually enjoyed the cinematography for the most part. I usually don’t like the found footage format for the same nausea-inducing reasons you mentioned, but I thought there was a good mix of camcorder shots and traditional shots in EoW

    In any case I’m seeing Looper here in a few hours so this movie might end up just being a footnote to it when I look back on this week

  2. Great review. I’ve been consistently shocked by the critical reaction to this film. The trailers seemed like it would be a dumb adaptation of a cop show, with ending titles like “Academy Award Winner Michael Pena” and “Academy Award Nominee Jake Gyllenhaal” to make people perhaps think twice. Guess that isn’t the case.

  3. I should see this one. Nice review.

  4. Top review here – need to catch this one.

  5. Great review. Wanting to see this one. I also thought it’d be generic but apparently it’s not. I’m glad about that.

  6. You have made me so eager to see this, Moonrise Kingdom and Ted. I will see End of Watch first; I think. Crime is one of my favorite genres and everyhitng in your review makes me think I’ll really like it.

    Gyllenhaal is a good actor and he’s very good in many movies. But I’ve never thought he ever did a “wow” perfromance. Intersted to see him in this. Excellent review!

  7. Looking forward to this, I’m a big fan of Gyllenhaal (not just because he’s easy on the eye). I haven’t seen any posters or trailers at the cinemas yet, so I don’t think we get to see it for a while yet unfortunately. After your review I can’t wait to see it!

  8. This almost seemed like an r-rated version of “cops”. That’s how real this seemed. Some of these scenes were hard to watch. We got to know these cops, and felt for them as real human beings. Acting was awesome. 3 1/2 stars.

  9. I really liked End of Watch. I am also interested in Movie Critic. See my critic on this movie.

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