End of Watch Movie Review – A Tour De Force
The best way to describe End of Watch is to call it a movie version of TNT’s Southland on crack.
For those of you familiar with Southland, then you know how dark, gritty and real the show already is, for those of you unfamiliar, let’s just say that it is the best and most realistic portrayal of the lives of the LAPD officers who police the city of Los Angeles.
So needless to say, as a fan of Southland, I loved End of Watch. Focused on two young Los Angeles police officers, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña), who patrol the meanest streets of south central Los Angeles, the film takes a turn when the two of them interfere with something that makes them the target of the country’s most dangerous drug cartel.
But that’s only part of the story. The real heart of the story is the relationship between the two lead characters. These two are very soon established as the rock stars of their department, but their skills might not turn out to be the blessing they were hoping for.
End of Watch relies heavily on the chemistry between Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña and it just works. Within seconds of watching them, you feel like they’ve been friends forever. The two of them are able to make the audience feel like they are peeking into moments of their lives and listening in to their private conversations. While it all seems so genuine and normal, it takes a lot of skill to make simple conversation look seamless. This movie would have not been the same if it wasn’t for these two.
But wait, there’s more. End of Watch is not your typical cop movie. Writer/ Director David Ayer engulfs the audience into the action by using lots of handheld HD cameras that the police officers themselves and gang members are using, surveillance cameras, and any other digital devices that exist nowadays to capture genuine every day moments. While it is true that digital has not yet surpassed film, in this case the movie works better because it’s not on film. I even remember thinking at some point while watching, “wow, this really could be someone’s personal footage.” That is not to say that the movie doesn’t look good or professional, but the handheld digital aspect of it, makes the film hit closer to home. It is harder for the audience to disassociate themselves from it because it looks so real.
The opening scene itself sets the tone for the film, as we watch the action through the lense of a camera on the hood of a LAPD squad car in pursuit of another car. The car finally gets cornered and its occupants get out start shooting back at the camera/cops, and that’s how we first meet our protagonists.
All of this is assembled around a captivating story that keeps you on the edge of your seat and culminates into a poignant ending.
End of Watch could have been another good cop movie, but with David Ayer’s brilliant vision and Gyllenhaal and Peña’s thrilling performances, it elevated itself into a tour de force that you won’t soon forget.
End of Watch is currently at the Toronto International Film Festival and will be released nationwide on Friday, September 21st.
You can watch the trailer here and check out more photos below.
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