Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick
End of Watch follows two cops, Brian (Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Pena), and their experiences on the beat in one of the worst areas in LA. Their lives are soon put at risk, when their actions upset the local cartel. Imagine an extreme movie version of COPS.
Filmed partially using hand-held cameras to give that “found footage” feel, and partially as a normal movie, we get to discover two guys who, for the most part seem a little like jerks, often upsetting their fellow officers with their antics, but who soon show how they undeniably love their job and are trying to make a difference to their community.
Directed and written by David Ayer, who is no stranger to tough police films having already given us Training Day and Harsh Times, the film is uncompromising to say the least. On more than one occasion, officers of the LAPD meet grizzly fates, providing the viewer with a real sense of danger that these people are put through on a daily basis.
One could argue that some of the events are not particularly likely to happen, and their exaggerated depiction is not quite in keeping with the “realistic” world that Ayer has attempted to convey, however form a purely popcorn-entertainment perspective, they help the pace of the film, as without them there is a risk that this could end up being a little too slow.
The intimate film making of Ayer helps to give the movie a pretty realistic feel. Even when we are not seeing the scenes unfold using the first person camcorders and phone cameras, Ayer opts to use “shaky cam” and close-ups giving the viewer a real sense of being involved in the story.
Also responsible for making the story credible are Gyllenhaal and Pena who excel as the main characters, helped by chemistry on-screen which appears to be pretty natural. Through their performances, you do get the impression that these two men love each other like only police partners can, and are willing to risk everything to save the other.
In fact it is probably one of Gyllenhaal’s better performances. Here is an actor who to some degree frustrates me. I honestly believe he has the capabilities of being one of Hollywood’s elite, and yet 11 years on from Donnie Darko where he made his name, it still looks like we are waiting for that one film to put him into the upper echelons of actors, even with the occasional hit along the way.
Fleeting though her role is, Anna Kendrick also does a decent job as Gyllenhaal’s love interest, doing enough to show a woman who wants to take on the role of a cop’s wife, even with the risks it comes with.
The story is nothing we haven’t seen before, and won’t necessarily turn heads, but it is strong enough to make End of Watch a very watchable and enjoyable film.
My only real criticism is the use of the “found footage” angle. The opening few scenes are all viewed from Brian’s viewpoint, as he is supposedly in the process of a project for film school. When the movie flips to third person, because they continue to use “shaky cam”, it is not entirely clear that we aren’t still viewing the film from the first person. The difference in filming is not distinguishable enough from the camcorder footage.
Indeed it wasn’t until about 30 minutes in, when we see a love scene between Gyllenhaal and Kendrick that it is made abundantly clear that this isn’t all first person footage. Whilst I have no issue with the change, it would have been useful to have steadier filming on the third person scenes to distinguish the change.
Training Day will probably be deemed as a superior film simply for Denzel Washington’s performance, however I was not a fan and to me End of Watch is a more complete story, leaving us caring about the people involved.
Rating 3.5 out of 5