Two LAPD beat cops (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) are marked for death after they make a series of busts that disrupt operations for a powerful drug cartel.
Director/Writer: David Ayer (Director of “Street Kings” and writer of “Training Day”)
Notable Supporting Actors: Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, David Harbour, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, Cody Horn
MY TAKE: Intense, gritty, and grotesque. These three words summarize David Ayer’s cop drama “End of Watch.” This gut wrenching flick is like an uncensored version of the show “Cops,” that’s so emotionally charged that it makes Ayer’s own “Training Day” look wimpy.
The reason it’s so affecting is its compelling use of found footage storytelling. Your ride along with Gyllenhaal’s Brian Taylor and Peña’s Mike Zavalas can be funny when they’re joking around and exciting like a first-person shooter during the tactical sequences, but it’s mostly twisted voyeurism. That’s because you witness horrific acts of violence and squalid crime scene conditions that the camera lingers on, almost as if to say “Can you believe how disgusting this is?” For found footage there’s surprisingly high production value, especially in the film’s romanticism for the Los Angeles scenery at night. There are some choppy moments as expected though, mostly when the characters are involved in fisticuffs.
“End of Watch” is a police tale, but Ayer’s movie is very much a character drama. Gyllenhaal and Peña both give truly convincing performances to get you to buy their brotherhood as partners. At points though, Ayer seems to get so distracted building up their relationship, that the angry drug cartel who want to kill them seem like an afterthought.
Ayer’s flick is the ultimate cautionary story about being overconfident. The cops in “End of Watch” play everything fast and loose, with no regard for the consequences of their actions. As the saying goes, “Play with fire, and you’ll get burned.” (Insert other clichés here.)
My Grade: B+