When I was a very young child, I had dreams of becoming a cop. I felt that way until Miami Vice went off the air and until I started going outside to play like most kids used to do back then. I won't ever get to know what it feels like to be a member of Law Enforcement, but due to the movie End of Watch, I can get somewhat of a first person look at this physically and emotionally taxing job that many kids have thought about doing at one point and time.
In this film, Officer Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Officer Zavala (Michael Peña) patrol some of Los Angeles' toughest streets as they go face to face with dangerous gangs who are heavily involved in drugs, money and guns. They're two young and charismatic guys who work well together and put their all into their profession every time out. As they face these tough streets one day at a time, they also have to balance their family lives. Of course, this is all in a day's work for your average office, but it gets more difficult for these two once they run into some trouble with a Mexican drug cartel.
End of Watch starts off with a high speed chase through the streets and back alleys of the infamous South Central of Los Angeles, California. All of this is shown through the same first person camera that we routinely find in those "Found Footage" horror films. Seeing as how its in a police car, showing through this style is not odd. You can say that they're only filming it from the dashboard camera in a police car, but then you'd have to look the rest of the film.
Soon after the car chase comes to a close, the audience is introduced to the two officers that are the stars of the film. This is also shown in a first person view, because Officer Taylor (Gyllenhaal) decides that he wants to film what his daily life is like. These two guys are cops of course, but they're partners on the force and also very good friends.
Through a large portion of the film, we ride around town with these two as they go on patrol doing their jobs. Around their neck of the woods, they run into a numerous amount of criminals. Some of them have earned their respect, some haven't, some don't want it and others will never get it. During this time, we not only get a chance to see their attempts to stop or prevent crimes, but we get to learn about them from a personal level. Many of their scenes are surprisingly funny as they're just clowning around in between the serious stuff that cops might actually witness in real life every once in a while.
To an extent, this film reminds me of another 2012 cop film. That film comes from France and it goes by the name of Polisse. The overall subject matter is different. One (Polisse) is about a Child Protection Unit in France (It's also based on true cases), and the other (End of Watch) is essentially about the typical police work that officers might run into. These two films are similar based on there styles. They both include the work that goes on, but they also feature a lot of scenes about the personal lives that I was just speaking of.
The way that's done in both of these movies allows them to create a better and more diverse picture of these officers and the everyday happenings that they experience. End of Watch is more on the funny side of things than Polisse, but they both benefit from this style of police film. If I had to choose, I would still probably go with Polisse as the better movie, but I believe End of Watch is pretty good in its own right.
Gyllenhaal and Peña carry End of Watch and are great on-screen together. These two appear to have legitimate chemistry and get plenty of opportunities to show off their skills. I think that both of them put on great performances that are easily engaging and entertaining. Those two alone help make End of Watch what it is, because there is no structured storyline through a decent chunk of it. They handle all of their scenes very well as they fight crime, deal with fellow police officers, mingle with family and find time for love.
If I had to criticize End of Watch for anything, I'd criticize it for it's use of that handheld "Found footage" stuff. They really didn't need it and they should have just went with the conventional camera work. You have these two cops using their own cameras to film their days, but you also have the gang members running around filming their days as well. That's flat out stupid. How many people committing illegal activities actually film their law-breaking practices? I'm sure some idiot might be out there doing it, but not when you're doing some of the stuff that these guys are doing.
Not only that, I noticed that even when no one is supposed to be holding a camera, the camera is still moving around in this "Blair Witch" style. They did this in Chronicle, but that made sense. The main character had superpowers and he could move it where ever he wanted just by using his mind. Well, they don't have superpowers in End of Watch, so I don't know how they thought this made sense. They could have at least used normal camera work in those scenes.
Outside of that, I really didn't find much to complain about. I originally thought this movie would blow, because of the way they chose to use these cameras, but I was wrong. End of Watch is actually an entertaining movie all the way around and it has very few glaring flaws to go with it. The only major flaw was the camera work at times. Other than that, it's certainly fun and it gives the audience a lot to like. I highly recommend it.
Director: David Ayer
Film Length: 109 minutes
Release date: September 21, 2012
Distributor: Open Road Films