Writer/Director: David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, Cody Horn
South Central Los Angeles seems to be as rough as you can get. It takes a certain type of police officer that would want to assign themselves to that area. Knowing that you are putting your life on the line with every phone call into 911 is heroic to say the least. Every day they are faced with guns and rifles pointing back at them with every house call they respond to. Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Peña) are partners in the LAPD. They have a brotherly love with quick witty banter and report often degrading each other or calling each other out on their own stereotypes. They are wise asses who seem to do things their own way only adhering to official police rules if they feel like it.
Taylor is shooting a documentary for his film class, so the rest of the film is shot documentary style primarily using the footage shot with their body cameras as well as the cameras mounted on their patrol cars. Their daily calls and inquiries are for a variety of reasons: drive-by shootings, drug and alcohol overdoses, gang rivalries, and domestic disputes. One call comes in claiming two children have gone missing. Taylor and Zavala show up to a heavily influenced set of parents living in a crack house whose children are tied up and duct taped in the closet. As they say, “Money and guns are the lifeblood of their organization.” Their biggest and most dangerous threat involves a Mexican cartel known as the Curbside Gang.
Outside of their job, Zavala is married and his wife is pregnant with their second child. During one of their many rides throughout the neighborhood, Taylor confides in Zavala about his desire to settle down with the right girl. He thinks he may have met the right one with Janet (Kendrick), the latest girl he is seeing. She seems to be sweet, funny, smart and even accompanies him to a quinceañera for Zavala’s extended family.
End of Watch is the latest from David Ayer who wrote Training Day and S.W.A.T. This is by no means an easy film to watch. The documentary style filming adds to the intensity making you feel like you are watching footage of real raids. The graphic violence and the living conditions of the people in this neighborhood take a strong stomach to handle. The raids and confrontations seen throughout the movie lead up to one final showdown that can be severely stressful. If you have issues with the “f” word or any of its derivatives, take note that that is used very liberally. Is it used as the vernacular with cops in this situation? Most-likely. It does not make it any less jarring with the copious amount it is spoken or yelled.
The relationship between Taylor and Zavala is the heart of the movie. It is easy to get wrapped up in the violence, but their camaraderie and friendship make the film a little more relatable and approachable than your standard buddy cop movie or street gang story. Gyllenhaal and Peña give exceptional performances. It is clearly evident that the film was no walk in the park to make. The banter between Gyllenhaal and Peña is hysterical at times which helps off-set the gritty tone the rest of the movie has. America Ferrera and Cody Horn have strong supporting roles as back-up officers who respond to any of Taylor and Zavala’s cases. If you can stomach the strong violence, shaky camera, and the language, End of Watch is definitely worth a viewing. It puts that whole world and life of a police officer a little more in perspective. I know that I would never be strong enough to take on that career.
RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)