Director: David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Micheal Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, Frank Grillo
Running Time: 109 minutes
Genre: Action drama
David Ayer has an impressive background in L.A. cop films. The writer of Oscar-winning Training Day, the underrated Kurt Russell pic Dark Blue and director of the silly, but highly enjoyable Street Kings returns with this searing thriller about two L.A.P.D. officers who get in over their heads with some with pretty nasty Mexican criminals. Using a variation of the found footage genre mixed with traditional camera set-ups, it makes for a compelling and gritty thriller that packs a punch and reaffirms Ayer's status as a promising writer/director.
End of Watch is not as much a cop film, more of a buddy picture that relies heavily (and thoroughly succeeds) on the performances of the two leads, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. Simply put, either the film fails or succeeds on the relationship of the duo. Gladly, it is very much the latter as Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Pena) feel like fully fleshed out characters and the primary focus is on their relationship from the beginning with the oft hilarious banter or heart-to-heart conversations about relationships that don't seem forced and seems like everyday conversations two guys would have. The film's more intimate moments with Taylor and Zavala's families further back-up the full characterization of the two leads with Zavala's wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez) and Taylor's love interest Janet (Anna Kendrick) providing more personal insights into the two. Both Gyllenhaal and Pena are great, with Pena in particular excelling (as he has done consistently in his career) as second fiddle to Gyllenhaal's Taylor. The story unfolds slowly, but it does not take away from the momentum of the film, with some clever set-pieces that only heighten the sense of dread that trouble is around the corner. Once the two run into trouble, there are some hyper-violent and dazzling action scenes that are wonderfully shot and executed. Tense and thrilling in equal measure, Ayer has perfected tense gun battles (see the opening to Street Kings for further proof) and again here he excels. However, one aspect of the film that suffers is the bland generic villains that while being intimidating and proper psychopaths, never get a decent enough look inside their world to understand their motives. It is a small niggle in such an entertaining film however, as it truly is Gyllenhaal and Pena's show.
End of Watch is a tough and gritty thriller (partly in thanks to the use of found footage style) with plenty for fans of the cop genre. Moreover, there are plenty thrills, excitement and entertaining performances to be found that raise the film above the run-of-the-mill generic cop thrillers out there, thanks greatly to the commanding and charismatic performances by Gyllenhaal and Pena.