End of Watch
Two 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.