End of Watch

WRITTEN BY: David Ayer
STARRING: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez
RATING: 3 stars
In a film like End of Watch, chemistry is everything. You can't have a buddy film without two good buddies. Thankfully for this film, the chemistry is fantastic between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena who play best friends and policeman working on the beat in Los Angeles. It's clear writer/director David Ayer is a fan of the complicated bromance. He's written films like U-571, The Fast and The Furious, and Training Day. What he has done with End of Watch is present the sometimes harsh reality of being a cop in a violent city including the arrogance and bravado of some police officers, but also the humility and the passion for the job. I wouldn't go so far as to say it is by any means a realistic depiction of the life of an law enforcer, but it does show some truths.
Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Pena) are police partners who patrol south central Los Angeles. They can be arrogant hotheads at times, being involved in a shooting for which there was an investigation that found they acted fairly, and picking fights with lowly criminals. But that is how they operate to keep things in balance. They aren't dodgy cops, but they are unorthodox. We also get an insight into their private lives with Mike's pregnant wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez) with whom he has been with since high school, and Brian's girlfriend Janet (Anna Kendrick). When the officers chase a driver for running a red light and confiscate cash and unique firearms, it sets a chain of events that leads a drug cartel to order their murders.
What is interesting about the leads is that in some ways they are very likeable but in other ways, they have such big egos that part of me was thinking that to some extent they brought on these events themselves. Both Gyllenhaal and Pena give convincing performance as friends and officers. They are also well supported by Kendrick and Martinez.

Unfortunately, the jump camera work and changing points of view became a distraction throughout the film. Some scenes were edited very quickly and it was hard to see what was happening while other scenes gave an interesting point of view but ultimately led to some queasiness. For example, the opening sequence gives the audience a view from the patrol car during a chase scene but it could make some viewers too dizzy to enjoy it. Brian is also filming his work for a side project and so he and Mike are often wearing cameras on their shirts, which gives a different point of view, but again, can be blurry and confusing. Even the bad guys have a camera in some scenes but it's a completely unnecessary motif.

My other problem with the film was that it was probably about 15 minutes too long. A lot happened, but there were times when I was bored and just wanted the plot to move along quicker. I also had a problem with the ending, which I won't give away, suffice to say it almost ends well but then falls flat.

End of Watch ultimately salutes the work that police officers do without putting them on too high a pedestal, realising that while the sacrifices they make are great, not all officers are in the job for the right reasons.