You wake up, feed the kids, kiss your wife, and walk out the door, not knowing whether you will make it home dead or alive. You arrive at work and, with your partner, leave in your patrol car, searching the streets for crime and corruption. You enter a decaying house, the smell of drugs and sex slip through your nostrils as you try to bring justice to the deserving. Welcome to the police force. Welcome to End of Watch.
End of Watch is a film that really crept up on me, meaning that I had never heard of it until just a week ago. I had no expectations going into it, I never watched a trailer for it, and I had no idea what it was other than a cop movie. And after seeing it, I have to say, it happens to be one of the best police dramas I’ve seen in recent years. End of Watch has a fairly simple plot: two cops stumble upon money and drugs that just happen to belong to a major drug cartel, causing in a domino effect of mass chaos breaking out against the officers and their struggle to remain alive. Yes, as simple as that may sound, this is a very good, often shockingly grotesque piece of work.
End of Watch is written and directed by David Ayer, screenwriter of Training Day,and this is the type of the film that you will love to look at, or hate to look at. I, for one, typically hate shaky-cam, and this movie is mostly filmed as a shaky-cam found footage film. That style works for the final film’s advantage, and it’s disadvantage. First of all, the shaky-cam scenes filmed by Taylor, one of the two lead officers played by a spectacular Jake Gyllenhaal, were absolutely fantastic, making it seem as if you were right in the center of the action. The chase scenes were filmed marvelously, and for a guy who hates shaky-cam, I enjoyed it in most scenes of this film. That being said, there were some cases of the filming style that I did not like. For example: Gyllenhaal’s character is recording his daily objectives at the police force because of a project he is doing for college, which, truthfully, is just a lame reason they came up with for using the “found-footage” effect. But, even though the effect was unnecessary, it was still handled really well; the same can not be said for the antagonists’ using of the cameras. As much as I liked this film, there were so many scenes in which the drug cartel would ride around committing crimes, and while they were doing it one of their members would be recording it, resulting in something that is never explained nor believable for the overall story.
That being said, there are so many positives in this film, but the main ones I will talk about are as follows. The acting in this film is absolutely wonderful. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena strike terrific chemistry and hard hitting emotion in this movie and it really causes you to feel for them. This is some of the best acting we’ve seen all year. Another positive: the action. As previously stated, the action scenes and chases were filmed terrifically, really making you feel as if you are immersed in the situation at hand. Another, and possibly the best aspect, is the dialogue. This film is littered with dialogue that is so relatable and realistic it makes you feel like you are standing in the ghetto listening to a conversation. If there are anymore flaws in the film, for me, it would be that the villainous characters really overacted in their roles; yes, they should be menacing, and yes, drug lords drop a lot of f-bombs, but two f-bombs in every sentence is just overdoing it.
In the end, I would say that End of Watch is a welcome surprise. It’s a film that feels more like a real life episode of cops, just on steroids. This is a large, profane, realistic, yet wonderful adaptation of real life in South Central, and even though it isn’t for the squeamish, it is certainly worth the watch.
Run Time: 109 mins
Rated: R for strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references, and some drug use
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, and Cody Horn
Writer(s): David Ayer
Director(s): David Ayer