There are only a couple of movies that managed to capture the smell of the asphalt and the gang war in L.A. and End of Watch is one of them. Gritty and uncompromising, it puts us in the shoes of two cops working in a very dangerous hood. This is one of the rare times that I must say that the “documentary” style camera was a plus. A big fucking plus, since it created an atmosphere so tense that towards the end of the movie I was literally at the edge of my seat (and by seat I mean my bed).
I was waiting to see how things will go for our two main characters, officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala. We will follow them as they go about their daily duties on the hot streets of Los Angeles. You could say that End of Watch is a buddy cop movie but its tone is much darker than the rest of the movies in this genre. The characters are well-developed and feel authentic. Our dynamic duo is actually loosely based on real-life LAPD Officers Charles Wunder and Jamie McBride.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña gave convincing performances, not that I expected anything else from them. And while I knew that Jake already had it in him, this is perhaps the first time I saw Michael showing us his full range of acting skills. I would also like to add that both of them spent five months preparing for their roles and going on ride-alongs. The first time Jake went out, he witnessed a murder. And that fucking changes you.
South Central, Los Angeles, is there a more iconic place for two cops to be? The local gangs are still active, playing the game against the odds. However, there’s a new player about to enter the game. Street cops Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, partners and best friends are eager and willing to try to restore order in this chaos. Very determined, the two of them accidentally stop a truck filled with drugs and weapons, not knowing who it belongs to… There is only one word that can drive fear in a man so fast: Cartel…
Director David Ayer made several similar movies about the wars between the police and gangs. Some of them are Training Day, Dark Blue, S.W.A.T., and Harsh Times. This is not surprising since he grew up in South Central Los Angeles and has had numerous friends in the LAPD. The entire movie was also shot in that area, meaning that this was a very dangerous production.
So, after those somewhat classic movies, he decided to experiment a little. This time he decided to concentrate more on the drama that is cut by high-tension scenes and shootouts. Whether he made the right choice depends on your taste, but I found it very refreshing. End of Watch is a more down-to-earth crime movie without larger-than-life characters like Alonzo or Dominic.
It puts the focus on the dangers of such a profession and just how intense and nasty can things get. The characters we meet are great examples of what all members of law enforcement should strive to be. So, if you’re looking for corruption and other stuff you won’t find it here. Better check out Rampart, based on the insane true events about one a bit peculiar police station.
Director: David Ayer
Writer: David Ayer
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Natalie Martinez, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour, Frank Grillo
Fun Facts: The banter between our two leads was mostly improvised.