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A Movie Review on End of Watch (2012)
David Ayer, the writer and director of End of Watch, is no rookie when it comes to handling a police drama like this. He served as the writer on such films as The Fast and the Furious, S.W.A.T., Dark Blue and the critically acclaimed Training Day. He made is directorial debut in 2006 when he wrote and directed Harsh Times, a crime drama set in South Central Los Angeles starring Christian Bale. Ayer then went on to direct the movie Street Kings, which follows a veteran L.A.P.D officer who is framed for the death of a fellow cop and must now go up against the people that he's work with for so long. Street Kings features a great casting including Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker, Chris Evans and Huge Laurie. It remains one of my favorite police dramas of all time. Ayer follows up Street Kings with End of Watch, in which he wanted to created one of the most realistic police dramas, showing what everyday cops go through in South Central Los Angeles.
End of Watch follows two police officers, and best friends, Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala as they patrol the streets of South Central Los Angeles. After uncovering a human and drug trafficking ring run by the Mexican Cartel, Taylor and Zavala begin to investigate further, seizing drug money and firearms during a semi-routine traffic stop, and uncovering a horrific stash of dead bodies within a house, the workings of Mexican Cartel. Bounties are placed on both their heads for their hand in these seizes.
The movie uses the handheld, found footage style of filming to tell its story using dashboard cams, a camera Taylor carries around as a film project, two mini-cameras that clip onto both Taylor's and Zavala's uniforms, as well as a cameras used by four members of the Curbside Gang, and another minor gang. The handheld aspect, when being used by Taylor and Zavala, brings a realistic and gritty feeling to the movies that is very reminiscent of the show Cops. It really feels like they handed cameras to two police officers and told them to go out there and do their jobs. When a handheld camera is placed in the hands of two different gangs, in order to give the audience a look at their portion of the story and how they fit into the big picture, it feels forced, showing the minor downside of using the handheld perspective for this film. Ayer does not stick with the handheld aspect the entire time, going back and forth between that and conventional filming, which helps him break away from the limitations of filming handheld.
The movies keeps a good balance between some all-too shocking moments of police work and discoveries, and the outside lives and human drama of the two main characters. We are shown Taylor's budding relationship with a girl he meets, Zavala's family life including his little sisters Quinceanera, and Taylor's and Zavala's strong friendship. The movie does a wonderful job setting up these characters, and making us really care for them. What I found to be quite surprising about the film was the amount of comedy that is included within the film. Taylor and Zavala toss hilarious light-hearted racial stereotypes back and forth at each other that induce plenty of laughter.
When it comes time to being serious, the movie does not hesitate to drag you right into the horrific and shocking world of crime. From a drugged up prostitute mother who doesn't know where her kids are, to the discovering of human trafficking, and to a routine check-in on an elderly lady that takes a turn for the horrific, the movie provides an unblinking look at crime in South Central Los Angeles. It quite scary to see these things in the movie, knowing all too well that stuff like that happens all around us.
End of Watch turns in some truly fantastic acting, with it's two lead actors, Jake Gyllanhaal and Michael Pena, leading the pack. Ayer provides them with very realistic lines that makes it feel as if you are watching two best friends/police officers really talk, and not saying lines from a pre-written script like so many other movies. It's really quite fascinating to watch the chemistry between these two actors on screen, and you can tell there is a genuine friendship between these two guys off the movie set. The other actors/actresses provide very strong performances in their supporting roles with the two female officers, played by America Ferrera and Cody Horn, being the strongest. Frank Grillo as Sarge, and Anna Kendrick as Taylor's girlfriend Janet, both turn in equally strong performances. The only hiccup in the acting department is by the four members of the Curbside Gang. Their performances are little too much, especially with one of them using the f-bomb every other word. It's a bit excessive and ridiculous, but easy to look past.
End of Watch is a superb look at the day-to-day activities for two police officers in South Central Los Angeles. The movie features great performances all across the board with fantastic chemistry between the two lead actors, quite a bit of laughs, and some shockingly realistic looks at crime. As far as police dramas go, this one is tops in my book.
End of Watch was released in theaters on September 21st 2012
Written and Directed by David Ayer.
Starring Jake Gyllanhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, Cody Horn, Natalie Martinez, and David Harbour.
Rated R. Runtime: 109 Minutes