End of Watch film review
Usually, police dramas depict cops as crooked, heinous people hooked on the cliche bottle or fix to get through the day. End of Watch is refreshing because it manages to be interesting telling a story of brotherhood, family, and trust rather than the usual “corrupt cop” take. David Ayer directs this film with a gritty eye, and lets Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena shine in their roles as two do-right LAPD officers who’s playground is South Central L.A. where the adults are kids at heart and mind, with guns.
David Ayer, writer of Training Day, molds one hell of a realistic police drama. Ayer uses handheld cameras and utilizes a documentary feel to make everything seem like you’re there in the interceptor with the cops. There’s a lot of point-of-view shots to get the audience in on the action, and although it takes getting used to, Ayer uses the style with great purpose. The script is by-the-books but it rings true to the men in blue, and it’s very sincere in a natural way. The characters don’t recite poems, but they are poetic, as well as funny, broken and intrepid. He shows the serenity in violence through the lives of two police officers that stay true to the badge, and he allows us to get emotionally attached with ease, so that we share the joy and pain of these two officers.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena give two of their best performances ever. Gyllenhaal plays Officer Taylor, a man with brains and loyalty, and Pena plays Officer Zavala, a family man with a bit of a crazy side. There are many electric, tension-filled scenes, but the best parts of the film are actually the scenes these two gents share in their patrol car. When they converse, it’s as if they really have been together on the beat for years, as their exchanges are so raw and spontaneous. They know each other like the back of their hands and they hurl jokes left and right; although, when the moment becomes “the moment” they work like Scottie and MJ. Their chemistry is something to behold, and it puts many cinematic relationships to shame. They display the type of brotherhood anyone would envy. Both characters are also very refreshing, as they come from the cloth of Frank Serpico rather than Alonzo Harris.
David Ayer has written films like Harsh Times and Training Day, but I’m glad to say that End of Watch isn’t more of the same. End of Watch is more of what we need in the cop genre: a display of good, honest cops that still give meaning to “protect and serve.” It dares to once again paint cops as heroic.
I get it. Shaky cam and the documentary-style type of filmmaking makes things look more realistic. I get it. I really do, but that doesn’t mean it still doesn’t give me a headache. Most will get used to it, and overlook it because of the strength of the performances, the pace of the film, the tension and the realism, but it will ruin it for some.
There is no linear narrative thread, as this film takes on the day-to-day lives of regular police officers, so that might put some people off. It’s not about the story, it’s about the characters, their relationships and their lives.
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