END OF WATCH
Two young LAPD officers, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) are a closely bonded duo, responding to calls and hoping to make a difference on the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles. But they also have private lives; Brian's girlfriend Janet is taking his attention, while Mike's wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez) is pregnant. When the officers chase an SUV driver for a traffic violation, they find and confiscate a cache of cash and exotic firearms. The news gets back to the driver's bosses, a vicious drugs cartel which orders the murders of the two police officers.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
That's not a pot of chili con carne that mama is putting on the backseat of her boy's SUV, but who's to know. If the young Mexican driver of that SUV hadn't run a red light, the two young LAPD cops Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) wouldn't have pursued him ... and the chain of events that leads to the end of their watch that day would not have happened. And we would still think it was chili. But this film is not primarily a police procedural about that one incident. It is David Ayer's tribute to the LAPD and all who work in it, a buddy movie driven by a crime-fighting hero worship ethos with genetic links all the way back to The Lone Ranger.
We are given a front seat view from their patrol car in an opening chase sequence, and this device is used repeatedly, together with the proposition that Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) is recording things as they go along for some project of his own. It's a flimsy way of creating what looks like found footage, and most of it is so unwatchably blurry we wish it had been lost. It's a mistake to rely on this device unless you have a watertight internal logic to maintain the pretence. In fact there are plenty of third party POV scenes and the muddle about which scene is shot on Taylor' camcorder or Zavala's (Michael Pena) secret lapel camera or by the actual cameraman is a frustrating distraction.
On the other hand, Ayer's portrayal of the two young officers with a bigger character wardrobe than their blue police uniforms is determined, if not entirely successful. The banter between them in the police car and the scenes of them with their partners after work are only skin deep, jokey exchanges notwithstanding. Still, we do get to like them.
The drama is spasmodic for a police procedural, so be prepared for a few short intermissions if all you're looking for is cop and crim action. What there is of that is fiery, loud, chaotic and edgy. The film makes no bones about its bias: all the crims are vicious and ugly and the cops do the best they can.
It's not until the last act that the screenplay changes gears into fully fledged story mode as the nasties in the drug cartel set out to hunt them down. This sequence is tense and riveting, and the action plays out with gut wrenching veracity. But Ayer (and his studio suits) could not finish without a final flourish to prove what genuine human beings these guys are, in an attempt to have the audience find a smile on the way out.
Review by Louise Keller:
Just as The Hurt Locker took us into an explosive US bomb disposal unit in Iraq, End of Watch shares the volatility of the nightly beat of two LA cops as they routinely put their lives on the line. With its dizzying, jumpy camera work and constantly changing point of view, there is a dynamic sense of being there, as the two cops, superbly played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña throw themselves head first into unpredictable, ever-changing situations, while first and foremost looking after each other's back.
Powerful, revealing and often devastating, it's impossible not to get caught up in the intensity of the lifestyle and the intimacies shared as a result of the close camaraderie between the cops. It's a full-on experience, exploring the nasty, jagged underbelly of LA life, complete with its bloody violence, gruesome discoveries and eye-opening revelations about human behaviour.
It takes a while to get used to the jumpy style that David Ayer, who wrote Training Day, has chosen. The camera's point of view begins from that of a police car that speeds headlong on a fast pursuit. There's the thrill of the chase, the heart in mouth moments as we lurch all over the road before coming to a screeching halt. The lapel camera and the video camera that Gyllenhaal's Brian Taylor carries to capture everything that happens is then utilised as a device, before being carried through into the film's action sequences. These include Brian and Mike Zavala (Peña) responding to a missing juvenile alert, a noise complaint, a burning house, human trafficking and more. Each job is filled with tension - it is the unknowable that keeps us on edge, like the discovery of human body parts, Liberace-style guns, or cocaine stuffed in pickled gherkins.
There's a wild edge to the conversations between Brian and Mike as they drive from case to case. They joke and laugh about many things, but there are serious moments too, as they talk about their love lives and those who share them. We learn much about Mike's relationship with his pregnant wife Gaby (Natalie Martinez, lovely), while Brian (who was strictly a three-date kinda guy) becomes involved with Janet (Anna Kendrick). Such is the all-consuming lifestyle, that it is not surprising that the Brian and Mike are best friends and all the cops have a tangible bond with each other.
There's an accumulation of tensions as one situation springboards to another, each one screaming at a higher pitch in intensity. They might joke around much of the time, but when it comes to the crunch, there is nothing but team work on display. We have nothing but admiration for the calm focus that these men have in dire circumstances and Ayer's film salutes the teamwork and dedication of the men of the LAPD.
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END OF WATCH (MA15+)
CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Natalie Martinez, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, Cle Sloan, Jaime FitzSimons, Cody Horn, Shondrella Avery
PRODUCER: David Ayer, Matt Jackson, John Lesher
DIRECTOR: David Ayer
SCRIPT: David Ayer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roman Vasyanov
EDITOR: Dody Dorn
MUSIC: David Sardy
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Devorah Herbert
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 1, 2012