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Published on September 21st, 2012 | by simeon

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End of Watch

Director/Writer David Ayer (Street Kings, Training day) once again takes us into the world of the Los Angeles police department in the new movie End of Watch. Only this time rather than go in the corrupt police officer direction he has gone before, Ayer instead takes audiences on a honest and somewhat realistic emotionally charged ride along with two young and confident LAPD patrolmen.

While the story in this film is as simple as two cops over reaching their pay grades causing them to get on a drug cartels hit list. The film is more like an unrated extended episode of the TV series Cops, focusing on the everyday encounters of our heroes as they patrol south central LA. These encounters range from calls for lost children, domestic disturbance, and noise violations, albeit a bit exaggerated in these and several other incidents. Still the various types of encounters cause the film to feel like a true ride along into the lives of these LAPD cops. Additionally the use of the handheld “found footage” film style works surprisingly well at giving the movie that TV episodic style that makes the overall experience feel realistic. That being said, there are a few scenes where it is not clear who is holding the camera or where the shot is coming from, however these scenes are barely noticeable because of the excellent performances by our protagonists that keeps our interest on what they are saying and doing on screen rather than who is holding the camera.

Officer Bryan Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal, Source Code) is our main protagonist of this movie. The ex-marine turned cop has to take an art elective in his pre-law studies and decides to take a documentary film class and take us on the inside of the LAPD. Gyllenhaal ‘s performance embodies Taylor as the good natured ambitious officer wanting more in his life of relationships and career. It would be easy for this character to be the traditional good cop in movies like this however given the found footage film style we instead find that Taylor, while good, can also be a complete “jerk” cop who is quick to anger and use brutish force when he deems necessary. This only helps solidify the rawness and reality of this film which pays a nod to the difficult nature of this job for real life police officers. Gyllenhaal gives yet another outstanding performance in his career causing us to grow attached to his character and respect him.

In addition Michel Pena (Crash) delivers a fantastic performance as Taylor’s partner and best friend Officer Mike Zavala. Pena embodies the other side to Gyllenhaal’s “jerk” cop by with his own good natured, simple man who is quick to become a bull when pushed. No more is this better shown in a scene where Zavala and a gang member get into a war of words and caused Zavala to drop his gun and badge and fight man to man to settle their dispute in the “street” way. Thus earning respect from that particular gang member.

Together Gyllenhaal and Pena share the screen wonderfully. Their relationship seems effortless and natural as if they were actually partners and best friends. You can tell they are having fun on set working together and it shows in their performance together as they really get a sense that they are more than partners and friends but are in fact, brothers. Their relationship and characters are only developed further as we watch Taylor pursue a deeper intellectual relationship with scientist Janet (Anna Kendrick, Up In The Air) and Zavala through the birth of his first born from wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez, Death Race). Kendrick and Martinez give believable performances as love interests to our heroes that show us a more human and softer side of these testosterone filled officers who will do whatever it takes to uphold the law. Throw in a strong supporting cast of other police officers led by Frank Grillo (Warrior) who plays the LAPD’s sergeant and you have a performance where we not only care about our heroes but we see the brotherhood of the police force in general.

One thing that I was not expecting from the film is the amount of moments where the audience literally laughed out loud. That is not to say that this is a comedy, in fact it is far from it. But the quick witted jokes and verbal jabs by our onscreen partners help alleviate some of the heavy emotional scenes of the movie. I felt that these characters used that good natured humor to keep themselves from going off of the deep end in handling all of the gruesome encounters they witness. These well placed laughs helped the audience deal with these gruesome scenes as well and helped strengthen our bond with these brothers.

All in all, this movie is a buddy cop film on steroids. While there is not much of a traditional story arch, this helps develop the realistic feel more like an unrated extended episode of Cops. That being said Gyllenhaal and Pena deliver a fantastic performance together. They have a real connection that makes you believe they have been partners for years and consider each other brothers. Add in a solid ensemble cast and the overall experience is worth the price of admission. However those who grow motion sick from found footage films may want to stay clear as there is a definite lack of steady cam.

4 out of 5 stars


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