End of Watch is an intense, emotional, and at times artificial story about two cops who are best friends and whose devotion to each other wins the day. It’s easy to feel that this movie is an homage to police forces around the USA.
Here’s a trailer:
Released September 21, 2012
Written by David Ayer
Directed by David Ayer
Starring: America Ferrera, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, David Harbour, and Frank Grillo
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Brian (Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Pena) are best friend police officers. They’ve been riding leather in the same squad car for years and know everything about each other. They work together as if they have ESP, able to back each other up and keep each other safe through a combination of following correct procedure and being totally devoted to each other.
The problem is that they are persistent and don’t mind stretching orders a little in order to see action and nail some bad guys. They’re not renegades a’la Mel Gibson in the Lethal Weapons films; they’re devoted to stopping crime. So when these two stop a truck that left a house they identified as suspicious, they end up arresting a cartel messenger who has a bunch of money, drugs, and guns in the truck. They’re heroes at this point, but then they keep following the smell of this drug cartel’s activities, breaking up a human trafficking operation and eventually being marked for death by the cartel’s honchos.
Much bloodshed, other violence, drug use and trafficking, and more ensue. In the meantime, Brian finally finds a girl with whom he can have an intelligent conversation, Janet (Kendrick), and Mike is a devoted husband and father. Mike married his high school sweetheart, Gabby (Martinez) and has never looked back.
The story culminates in a tense, drawn-out gun battle during which the audience will ask repeatedly, “Where the heck is the back-up?”
Quick pet peeve: I’ve never heard a real, live police officer refer to himself as a ‘cop’. They call themselves ‘police officers,’ and movies would do well to remember that.
The artifice in this film springs from the writer/director’s choice to try to make the film as realistic and true-to-life as possible. This choice works well in everything except for the filming. The movie we are watching is supposedly the footage from a personal camera that Brian carries around everywhere as part of an evening class he’s taking, in addition to film from some other characters.
That’s dumb. Mr. Ayer, we are sitting in a movie theater; we know we’re watching a movie. You abandon the ‘found footage’ artifice at inconvenient times, so you might as well have just scrapped the idea altogether.
The effort to make the film reflect reality is otherwise well spent. The police officers in the locker room and other casual interactions are a delight; it feels like Ayer really knew what he is talking about when he depicts conversations and relationship dynamics with these police officers. Furthermore, the views of the cartel’s personnel and the foot soldiers in their natural habitat are marvelous.
None of these characters are stock either; they’re tough, flawed, angry at times, and are rich with humanity. Of particular note is Orozco, played by America Ferrera, a cop who is tougher than any of her colleagues. If nothing else, End of Watch is a useful view into the lives of police officers, illuminating the life these people live both with and without the badge.
The writing is effective, although there are moments when the tension has seeped out of the story and it lags somewhat; these moments pass however. The somewhat predictable story is rescued by some truly excellent acting from both Pena and Gyllenhaal; both are worthy of notice. Their chemistry and timing engage the audience instantly, and their devoted friendship carries the film.
You have moments of comedy, drama, and self-righteous fury. The actors nail these moments and the story is told unflinchingly. In End of Watch, Ayer tells a realistic, predictable, and unflinchingly sentimental story of love, friendship, and sacrifice. In truth, all in all, this film is a paean to the LAPD. I can think of worse groups of people to honor.
Content warnings: All of them. Violence, blood, constant swearing, sensuality, drug use, intense segments.
Writing: 4 Acting: 5 Overall: 4.5
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*take the shot*