Cert: 15 Runtime: 109 mins Director: David Ayer Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña and Anna Kendrick
An on-the-job shooting is still considered a homicide. It’s never an easy ride. If you do the right thing, I’ll always have your back. Do the wrong thing and cross me – I will personally throw you under the bus
I do love a good cop movie, when you hear Jake Gyllenhaal is involved you gotta answer the call. Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) are partners working for the LAPD in the dangerous streets ruled by gangs and drug cartels. They are also best friends and spend all day talking about their families and such in between chases and gun shootings while they patrol the streets. Mike is married to Gabby (Natalie Martinez) who is expecting their first child, while Brian has begun dating a very intelligent girl named Janet (Anna Kendrick) with whom he’s falling for. As the two men discuss their daily lives and play jokes on other officers they also get the job done. They are so good at what they do that a dangerous drug cartel marks them for death after they confiscated some of their money and firearms. Brian and Mike continue with their lives as usual while saving children from a burning house and fighting criminals in the street without feeling like heroes. Frank Grillo plays the Sarge, and America Ferrera and David Harbour two other officers in the department.Mention David Ayer, and you’ll probably remember his run of gritty crime thrillers that he either wrote, or directed, or did both, with films such as Harsh Times, Street Kings and Training Day part of his filmography. To spice things up a little bit stylistically, the found footage makes its debut for this genre, just as you’re wondering how much more this technique can be pushed without boring, or irritating through its constant jerkiness. And Ayer has milked the technique gracefully here, with a little bit of a cheat of course.
End of Watch may have ridden on the gimmick of found footage, where a narrative gets assembled from a camera, or multiple cameras, usually charged with extended battery life, and an invisible hand at splicing the footage together. But here’s the catch – David Ayer and his editor Dody Dorn never got too hung up with whose camera we’re actually peering from at any one point in time. It could be from the cops, it could be from the thugs, it could be from CCTV or video cameras mounted in patrol cars. Or it would just be. Not before long, you too will likely not care about the plausibility of certain angles, or presence of somebody else around to have taken that shot, and while this could get on the nerves of purists, I would recommend to let it be, and let the story take control instead.And the story just about covers all the sexier aspects of policing, with danger at every turn, unexpected for the most parts in what may seem like a low risk, routine patrol call or response. It’s episodic, and almost day in the life of, as we trace both men’s personal lives, and public ones when they adorn the uniform, which as one line in the movie puts it in rather straightforward fashion, that they’re police officers and everyone wants to kill them. So much for law and order, with a little black humour thrown in for good measure throughout, because I suppose in jobs like these, you need to keep your chin up, with trust being a valuable commodity whether it is earned from within the same department, or even respect gained from those on the other side.
But it’s all not fun and games as we patrol the streets together with Brian and Mike, since we see different facets to policing, from criminal gang violence to domesticated ones, right down to an unexplored subplot involving serial gang killings. There’s a maxi-arc that runs along the entire film with the Mexican drug cartels, especially with our protagonist duo taking it upon themselves to launch some deeper investigations, or at times stumble upon something much larger than what’s at face value. What’s more, there’s also a stinging criticism at the inefficiencies of US intelligence gathering, with the myriad of agencies and departments usually getting in one another’s way, or that red tape prevents pertinent information from going through to the right parties, resulting in the unnecessary loss of lives when it could have been prevented. What I value most about the film, is not about the police procedures, or the set action pieces which were as realistic as can get. It’s about the friendship and camaraderie formed with another human being who’s put in the same boat as you, with heavy reliance on one’s partner to be able to be there, or back you up. It’s the basic formula of a buddy cop movie done extremely right, with focus on the bond the two men share, and especially the very candid manner in which they discuss almost everything under the sun when in their patrol car. It humanizes the characters beyond their roles and uniform, and this is what makes End of Watch so engaging from start to finish. Another winner from David Ayer, and a must watch film of the year.