End of Watch

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two hotshot LA cops who stumble onto cartel activity in their precinct. Undeterred, they charge full steam ahead, challenging the criminals head on.

Along the way, they demonstrate the courage it takes to be a police officer, and the bond that forms between partners.

There’s not much more to this film than that, but it winds up being enough. “End of Watch” is an entertaining cop drama with action to spare.

Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) are patrol partners in Los Angeles. The movie opens with the two engaged in a high speed chase that culminates in a shoot-out with the suspect vehicle. Taylor and Zavala survive, kill the perps, and are cleared by the subsequent inquiry.

After which, they’re emboldened to take more risks on the job. They confront more dangerous suspects, start playing fast and loose with the regulations, and enter hazardous situations without hesitation. Their new, cavalier attitude is rewarded, as well. They log high profile arrests, and receive public commendations for their bravery.

Unfortunately for them, they also draw the attention of the cartel.

“End of Watch” has a lot going for it, primarily the camaraderie between Gyllenhaal and Peña. Not that their performances are remarkable or anything, but the movie’s primary aim does seem to be to illustrate the strength of the bond that’s formed in the squad car between partners, and these two have an excellent rapport. You buy into their friendship. As they bust on each other, as the spend time together getting to know each other’s their significant others (Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez), as they face the dangers of the job… You do share the experience of a bond being formed.

There are certainly aspects of the film I didn’t care for, however, starting with the found footage/shaky cam conceit they decided to use. I honestly didn’t understand why they tried to insert the element of the cops filming things at all. If the director wanted to use that style, just use the style… Not that I’m a fan of that technique, but the excuses they made to have cameras present at certain times were patently ridiculous.

The plot got a little sketchy for me, at times, too. These are two cops that never wrote a simple ticket in their lives. Every single thing they did seem reveal a major crime. Whether it was human trafficking, or drug smuggling, or mass murder, or all if the above, simultaneously… I had a mild case of the eye rolls by the end.

Still, Gyllenhaal and Peña win the day. They’re a charismatic pair, and the adrenaline charged situations that they frequently find themselves in are highly watchable, even if it does strain credulity to see them all strung together back to back to back.


20 thoughts on “End of Watch

  1. After I saw the trailer, I started to pay attention this film. It’s like a slightly more cheerful version of Training Day, where this time both cops are heroes. It sounds like it didn’t blow your mind, but it was worth a watch (free online, not in theaters:)…

    • Ha! LOL A cheerful version of training day. Kind of… kind of… 😀

      Its not that cheery. They get into some gruesome situations. But youre right, theyre definitely cleaner cops.

      Its worth a watch someday Livi, definitely. It was ok!

  2. It sounds as though we had exactly the same experience with this Fogs.

    I loved the performances by Gyllenhaal and Pena! The friendship between the two came through so convincingly on the screen and was easily the strength of the film.

    As violent as the film was, I never felt like Ayer was being gratuitous with it. It all felt believable within the story.

    Unfortunately, the shaky cam and how it was tied into the story was enough to keep me from absolutely loving the film. I feel it was unnecessary on both accounts.

    Great review as always Fogs!

    • Thanks Joe! 😀

      It was fun enough. The two of them as cops was the big draw though. Some of the actual plot/things they busted etc… got a little shaky. Like the camera work LOL!!

      But yeah, entertaining enough. Definitely had its share of fun moments.

  3. Hi, Fogs and company:

    Interesting critique. Looks and sounds like the next evolution of Dennis Hopper’s ‘Colors’.

    Though I think 9mm or .40 caliber handguns and 12 gauge shotguns will win against .30 caliber AK-47s only in Hollywood. Even in the famous shoot, LAPD officers had to raid a gun store to commandeer Steyr AUGs and Bushmaster semi auto M-16s in .556 to compete with the bad guys.

    • “Colors”. Holy crap its been a long time since I thought about that one! Duvall and Penn… 😀

      It has similarites, sure. Been too long since I’ve seen that one to comment more astutely than that, buddy.

      They’ve made documentaries and whatnot about the shootout you’re referring to, right? That’s totally ringing a bell for me. It’s not that bank robbery though, is that the one?

      • Hi, Fogs:

        I was referring to the February, 1997 bank robbery gone bad in L.A. Where the criminals took their cue from Michael Mann’s made for TV movie, ‘L.A. Takedown; (1989) Which later became ‘Heat’ (1995).

        The robbery and post robbery escape and running gunfight were notable for its bad guys having body armor and high end, high capacity rifles. Perhaps selective fire (semi-auto and full), perhaps not.

        Anyway, it was a situation for which the LAPD was completely unprepared, but adapted quickly to.

  4. If you do a Youtube search on “police beatdown” or some phrase to that effect, you’ll find– interestingly or stupidly enough, take your pick– that gangbangers do in fact tape cop beatings (in which they’re the ones beating up the cops) and post them online. That’s nuts to me. I honestly couldn’t get my head around the “why” of gang members filming their drive-bys, but I guess that stuff does happen, and so Taylor filming himself on the job becomes the next least-believable thing in the film.

    I’ll cop to liking this quite a bit on the strength of the story and, as you point out, the acting. Gyllenhaal and Pena are amazing together. Honestly, I want to see more films starring these two actors, not necessarily cop films but films that pair them together in the sort of capacity we see here. They’re great. And their arcs and narrative are well-written. My main problem, as you might guess from the above, is the presentation. The film gains nothing from the chaos cinema/found footage techniques used here beyond muddled visual aesthetic, and frankly for me that approach brought down the whole picture a peg or two.

    Doesn’t change how good the substantive parts of the film are, but I think Ayer had a great film on his hands and reduced it to merely a “good” film with his approach here.

    • I’ll agree that the style is a detraction… and you’re totally right about the two leads. If anything, they’re the main value of this movie. Their camraderie is fantastic.

      I dont know if it was a great film hampered by the style though… I think the plot was a little weak, actually, and that end could have… been stronger. I guess it worked, but it wasnt the greatest.

      Got them where they were trying to go, I guess.

  5. Pingback: The Large Association of Movie Blogs | LAMBScores: Judges, Cops, Ghosts, and Eastwood

  6. Wanted to say this was an enjoyable rental for me.
    Gyllenhaal and Pena were a great duo onscreen in substantive roles.
    The dialogue was engaging and the story was very watchable.
    The shaky cam was a tad overdone, but I didn’t feel it detracted as strongly as others did. Perhaps the shaky cam would have worked better if the character’s film footage revealed something later to the characters themselves, otherwise a tad much. Additionally afterward, I was posing questions in my head about the preparedness of some officers facing down truly ‘big evil’ in the streets day-to-day. Much respect to those who protect and serve.

    A solid rental. Great intial post by FMR. 😉

    • I dont know that I felt that the shaky cam detracted as much as I found the found footage premise – that the characters were filming things themselves – was a detraction. It popped up now and then and had me rolling my eyes. 🙄

      But you’re right, the characters and dialogue save the day. Pena and Gyllenhaal were really great together, and they carried the flick to being a good watch. Glad you had a chance to check it out, S!

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