End of Watch [Celluloid Hero]
End of Watch (2012)
The writer of “Training Day” went back to the streets for another gritty cop movie. David Ayer wrote “Training Day”, and headed behind the camera to direct “End of Watch”. Both of those movies were dirty and hyper-realistic. The depictions are based in reality, but obviously compacted into a much shorter timeline than would take place in real life.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena play Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, two young hot-shot cops in the LAPD. Taylor is filming the day-to-day actions for a project, which gives us a great deal of shaky hand-held action, along with a lot of first-person perspectives. This technique runs into a few snags, as occasionally it’s never really explained who is holding the camera. At times the camera is attached to the character’s shirt, sometimes it’s a dash-cam in the car, and other times it’s actually the “found footage” style from the cellphone of a criminal. If you’re not a fan of the shaky-cam style, this will not appeal to you.
Officers Taylor and Zavala quickly rise in ranks due to an inordinately high amount of big busts. They range from gangbusting to drugs to arms dealing to human trafficking. The events of the movie take place in about a six month range; obviously for any cop to have that many high-profile cases happen in such a short time isn’t believable, but for the sake of storytelling it manages to work. None of the busts seem too much to be true, it just seems like the sort of things that would be spread across years of police work as opposed to months. Many cops could go their entire careers without stumbling into the breaks these two catch.
The heart of the story is the camaraderie between Taylor and Zavala. Gyllenhaal and Pena have a good chemistry on-screen, and it would seem that a lot of their dialogue was improvised. They mess with each other in a bromantic way, busting each others’ balls while assuring that they would take care of the other’s family if anything ever happened. The significant others play a smaller but important part, with Natalie Martinez playing Zavala’s wife and Anna Kendrick as Taylor’s girlfriend.
There are very few movies that surprise me, and this ending actually made me yell at the screen. Without giving too much away, one scene sets us up for a certain outcome, the next scene continues down that road until the camera suddenly reveals something unexpected. The twist was unrealistic to me, but the emotional impact actually improved things in my eyes.
On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, “End of Watch” gets a 7 out of 10.