Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Directed by: David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick
David Ayer is possibly best known for the great film Training Day, the film that starred Denzel Washington as a corrupt narcotics cop who was more gangster than the gangsters themselves. Washington was so good in the film he even won himself an Oscar, which was a huge achievement at the time as Training Day was not seen as Awards worthy. What Ayer did there though was create this huge world and strip it bare to focus on two characters that made the world theirs. End Of Watch is a return to this type of movie. It’s a big world shown through the eyes of two LAPD cops. The leads aren’t detectives, they’re not corrupt or heroes, they’re two ordinary guys going out to work and doing their job in a neighbourhood full of gangsters and drug movers. In the very first scene Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, Brian Taylor, states in voice over that he’s a cop who will arrest you but shouldn’t be judged for that as it’s his job to detain those who break the law. He claims he didn’t write the law or may not even agree with it, but it’s his job to uphold it. He finishes by reminding us that he’s still human underneath the badge. This sets us up for the film brilliantly as that is what it is; two guys just doing their job. Problem is they are two little pawns in a much bigger circle.
The film opens following Taylor and Z (Michael Pena) as they chase a vigilante through the streets. When the vigilantes are caught they open fire on our cops in their final attempt to flee, but the partners are all for it and, upon firing back, kill their targets. They are known in their division for having a unique way of dealing with lawbreakers. There are many scenes where their Captain is berating them for killing someone when they could have detained them. Problem with Taylor and Z though is that it’s the action that gets them going, and they’re good at what they do. As they continue on with their jobs we witness the pair parading the streets in their cruiser and responding to 911 calls. Each call has something different but in small doses leads to the bigger picture, which causes them to be green lit by the top drug cartel operating in the area. Their arrogance leaves them unfazed but the cartel have tricks up their sleeve and are in pursuit of the two cops who are threatening to destroy their whole operation.
As well as their day jobs, we see the partners in their own environment. Z has been married for years and is looked up to by Taylor for finding his perfect woman. Taylor does finally meet his match though in Janet (Anna Kendrick) and we see him change from the player to the family man. More than anything else, this film is about the partners and it touches the themes of police officers being humans too.
The film is mostly shot hand held with invisible static cameras still picking up some of the action. It isn’t a found footage film in the style of Cloverfield and isn’t ordinarily shot like Training Day. This film crosses the two styles together and we see most of the bromance shot via the hand held cameras. The excuse for this is that Taylor is taking a film class and wants to document his job. He films as much as he can without being told off and even attaches mini cameras to his and Z’s uniform. When the cop’s find themselves in a situation where the hand held cameras won’t work we’re taken back to the ordinary style of shooting a film, although the photography is still the same gritty and realistic approach that the hand held cameras give. It’s rather an odd film to take in and I think that’s due to the camera choices. The characters were the story and, although it was a great way to show their relationship, at times it felt like I was watching a documentary of two LAPD cops.
The two lead actors are believable as real cops, which is perhaps the reason this feels so much like a documentary. They are so convincing as cops from their language, their stance, and their attitude. The writing, direction, and acting really provide a good sense of this police world and you really will believe you are part of it. The film may lack any real plot but the characters connection makes you route for them and the end of the film will blow you away.
End Of Watch does have some great moments. It’s brutal and realistic, but is let down with some scenes that clichéd and unrealistic. The camera worked in establishing the characters but also failed to pick up any real story. It seems for every positive there’s a negative, which is a shame as there’s something quite unique about End Of Watch. Unfortunately though there’s only so much knocking on people’s doors and stumbling across a crime that an audience can accept and in the end I wish I had been as gripped by the story as much as I was the characters.