‘End of Watch’
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña
At first glance, the audience assumes “End of Watch” is going to be a by the books buddy cop movie with the focal intention of providing popcorn escapism. As it goes on though, “End of Watch” evolves into something much more than initially assumed. This is an authentic and at times brutal glimpse into the lives of two police officers on patrol duty. “End of Watch” is additionally an extremely funny and intense action picture of sorts, completely blowing any of the “Rush Hour” and “Bad Boys” movies out of the water. Ideally balancing humor and humanity, “End of Watch” manages to be one of the better movies of its kind and one of the season’s most absorbing surprises.
A majority of the film is told from the perspective of Jake Gyllenhaal’s Officer Brian Taylor, who records himself with a handheld camera while on the job. No, he’s not one of those trashy police officers on “Cops” or “Reno 911.” Brian is actually making a documentary for a film course, although we never actually see him in this class. Michael Peña is Mike Zavala, Jake’s partner. The film follows their various pursuits as they save children from fires, confiscate money from a drug cartel, and make hilarious small talk while patrolling the ghettos.
There have been countless movies about racially mismatched cops that start off disliking each other and become friends. One of the many perks of “End of Watch” is that Brain and Mike are already best buds that have clearly always enjoyed each other’s company. Writer/director David Ayer, who penned the screenplay for “Training Day,” demonstrates his knack for dialog as Brain and Mike discuss work, relationships, and the future. The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Peña is so natural that you’ll occasionally believe “End of Watch” is not scripted, but based on found footage.
The film includes strong supporting performances from Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez as the wives of Brian and Mike. America Ferrera is also commendable as one of their fellow officers. But “End of Watch” truly belongs to Gyllenhaal and Peña, who sell every minute of their honest partnership. “End of Watch” goes above and beyond merely being a bromance about super cops though. Just like real life police officers, the stakes are always high and these two face unexpected danger around every turn. The affection we develop for Brian and Mike adds to the powerful final 30 minutes of the film, in which their brotherhood meets the ultimate test. I’m not going to get into what goes down. But the fact that this movie utilizes a handheld camera POV should be enough to tell you that there will be some tragedy.
With the rate of speeding tickets and DUI’s going through the roof, it can be easy for society to hate cops now more than ever. Walking out of this movie though, you’ll feel nothing but gratification for the police and the sacrifices they make to keep us safe. If you’re involved in law enforcement or connected to someone in law enforcement, “End of Watch” will prove to be an especially emotional experience.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.