Starring Jake Gyllenhall, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick and America Ferrera. Written by David Ayer. Directed by David Ayer. Produced by David Ayer, Paul Anthony Barreras, Jason Blumfeld, Remington Chase and Randall Emmett.
Imagine watching a two hour long episode of Cops – all the violence and intensity without much substance – and you'll have a pretty good idea of what to expect from End of Watch. Often told through the shaky lense of a video camera, this documentary-style camera work even looks like an episode of Cops, and while it grabs our attention and has us wide-eyed at the sight of bloody beheadings and golden AK47s, somewhere along the way its unbalanced mood loses it. The first half of the movie is dedicated to the tomfoolery of Brian (Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Pena) and their cavalier attitude towards crime and death. Brian's a light-hearted ex-marine who's looking for love and passion in his life and is the one playfully documenting their day to day with his video camera. Mike is his partner and the more experienced of the two, with a wife and child, who is more worried about doing his job than being a hero. Together, they're a couple of pranksters and have an invincibility complex that comes from their successful and incredibly fortunate past in the LAPD. It's not until the end of the movie that things take an abruptly serious and somewhat melodramatic turn – as each character grows, Brian valuing life more and taking his job more seriously and Mike becoming a mature father, so does their unique bond – and it gets a little too dark too fast when they're put in a life or death situation.
And while I can say Gyllenhaal and Pena's genuine chemistry and emotionally engaging (continued on page 31)
(Continued from page 30) performances made all the difference in this film, I can't say the same for any of the other cast members, especially those playing the criminals or gang members. This is particularly disappointing considering Ayer's signature projects, which are typically interesting because of their eerily realistic depiction of the Los Angeles crime world.
It's hard not to compare this movie with Harsh Times and Training Day simply because of the grittiness and edgy subject matter, and when you do, you'll realize how short it falls, and how – despite their best efforts – Gyllenhaal and Pena lack the raw energy that Christian Bale and Freddy Rodriguez or Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke had together in those movies. Where these teams came off as complex and layered, they come off as more of a silly bromance which is charming and likeable but hardly insightful. The way End of Watch was shot, however, will have audiences curious to see more and ultimately satisfied with its straightforward unfolding of events. Like most other cop movies, this one attempts to deglamorize the job by showing the behind the scenes footage of their day to day, and though it's not an original angle or groundbreaking premise, it's everything it promises to be.