Hollywood's hometown cops, LAPD has always been consistently portrayed in a negative way. From "L.A. Confidential" to last year's "Rampart" Hollywood has always mocked the LAPD motto "To serve and protect." But that slogan is taken very seriously by the two cop heroes in David Ayer's “End of Watch.” Ayer's moving testimonial to the men in blue is as riveting as his script for 2001 "Training Day."
"Found Footage", a hot trend in horror, feels already a little dated (mostly it results in motion sickness for some audiences including me), with its shaky, unwarranted distraction. In End of Watch, the Faux-footage somehow amplifies the authenticity which looks like a cross between old style cop movies and first-person shooter-style video games. The story centers on two cops, exploring their intimate and intense relationship, albeit from a different angle than the one used in “Training Day.”
PlotBrian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zvala (Micheal Pena) are officers on patrol in one of the nastier quadrants of South Central L.A. Through the various type of cameras -- microcams that claw on shirt pockets, dash boarded-mounted cams, cellphone cams, webcams, surveillance cams, HD camcorders, we follow them both as they inquire domestic disturbances, make traffic stops and rescue babies form burning house. There is always an air of uncertainty in their neighborhood, since South Central (L.A.) is a hive of drugs and gang violence.
Brian and Zvala is always diligent and avoids the wrong sort of attention in their department. They go along with medals of valor. Along the movie's course Zvala and his wife, Gabby (Natalie Martinez), have a baby, and Brian starts dating Janet (Anna Kendrick), both women never knowing whether their guys will survive their often brutally violent shifts. In one of the routine calls, the pair of cops stumbles on a secret that unwittingly makes them targets for a Mexican drug lord. This bestows the movie with an almost unbearable tension near the end, as we wonder and worry about what's around every corner.
AnalysisMicheal Pena -- so good in films like Babel, Crash, Shooter -- shines as Zvala with charisma. Gyllenhaal as Taylor, with his shaven head, gives a best performance since Borkeback Mountain. They both make their characters ordinary, down-to-earth guys who love each other and their women.Their friendship natural, not forced as is sometimes the case in buddy films. Both Taylor and Zvala are fleshed out with moments of rage, terror, humor and introspection -- all in a day's work for these men in uniform. The ensemble cast also deft performances from Frank Grillo as the pair's sergeant, and David Harbour and America Ferrera as fellow officers.
Director David Ayer steers this movie like a reality TV cop show with higher stakes, the camera running around the action, nosing into grubby corners and getting in everyone’s face. With an eye for unglamourized violence, Ayer portrays the well-trained professionals over-boiling with bot adrenaline and ego respond to potentially life-threatening situation, incorporating footage from various cameras, including 'top secret' surveillance videos. The shaky-cam approach is a bit over-used and the bad guys are horribly written, but the overall feel of the film satisfying and emotionally potent.
This is not the perfect cop movie. It does tends toward stereotype at times, especially in its depiction of Hispanics. It is a gritty sort of drama that seems rare within the thriller genre, where visual excess have become dominant. Ultimately, the movie works because Pena and Gyllenhaal reinvent themselves in their characters, a feat without which "End of Watch's" virtual-reality never would have worked. "End of Watch" is a victory of craft over cop-movie cliches and offers two hours well-spent.
End of Watch - IMDb