David Ayer, writer of The Fast and Furious and Training Day, tried his hand at directing for the fourth time with his latest film End of Watch. Overall, the movie can be slotted into the genre of action, but it is also hilarious and tear jerking — a complete emotional roller coaster.
End of Watch follows the relationship between two partners, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña), two LAPD officers who cruise the streets of a gang-littered Los Angeles. This leads to them busting the wrong people and starting a war with the Mexican cartel. The film is shot primarily in the ‘recovered footage’ style, as Gyllenhaal’s character is shooting a documentary about the life of cops for a college course on filmmaking. Cameras were meticulously planted throughout their patrol car, on their shirts, and in the hands of Gyllenhaal’s character, to reveal an authenticity that is often lost on the big screen. This authenticity was carried out through the flawless, seemingly unscripted, conversations and onscreen chemistry delivered by Peña and Gyllenhaal.
As with most cop movies, there were fantastical elements that just do not exist in real life. One scene in particular showed a gangster challenging Peña to a fight, and just as one might expect from an action film, he stripped himself of his gear to fistfight the challenger. The directing was also a bit shaky, and the editing towards the end of the movie provides a sometimes-distracting shift between found footage and choreographed camera shots. It gets difficult to transition from watching the movie from the characters’ perspective, to an outsider’s perspective — especially when there are a number of plot points to remember. However, the riveting performances delivered by both Peña and Gyllenhaal make this a minor negative for the movie.
With End of Watch, you can expect a surprisingly believable story that has you rooting for the protagonists the whole way through. The recovered original footage provides a documentary-like feeling throughout the film, misleading you into temporarily believing that everything that’s happening is real. In my opinion, End of Watch deserves an award, and at least one watch.