There have not been many cop drama movies in past years, but director and writer David Ayer (“Training Day”) has tried to successfully bring back the genre with his newest movie “End of Watch.”
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal (“Source Code”) as Brian Taylor and Michael Peña (“Tower Heist”) as Mike Zavala, “End of Watch” brings the audience through the lives of Taylor and Zavala as Los Angeles Police Department officers. The audience gets to experience the everyday life of a Los Angeles officer, while Taylor and Zavala dig themselves deeper into problems with the local cartel.
Throughout the movie we are given a realistic look into Taylor and Zavala’s lives with about 75 percent of the movie shown through Taylor’s personal cameras. At times it seems forced, especially the first time we see the cartel filming them pulling off a drive by. While other times it helped bring the audience closer to the action and made the sequences appear more realistic, especially through the police car video recorder. Ayer creates nice transitions between the “personal” camera shots and the regular shots to the point where switching back and forth does not hurt the movie.
Gyllenhaal and Peña each put on one of their better performances in this movie and show great on-screen chemistry. They make Taylor and Zavala likeable characters and believable partners. However, not much of a character arc is seen from either character. Both are hot-head cops that do not think twice about what they do. At times this characteristic is beneficial and makes them out to be heroes, like when they run into a burning building. But it is also the main reason they got themselves in trouble with the cartel. Taylor pushes the boundaries of his position and each time interrupts the plans of the local cartel. This causes the cartel put a bounty on Taylor and Zavala.
One of the things Ayer does well is connect the audience with the characters. They may be hot-head cops, but he gives Taylor and Zavala big hearts as well. Along with serving their duties as police officers, they are both fun characters in the way they joke around with each other and other officers.
One of the moments that give the audience a good view of what kind of people the two are is when they go on a call and encounter Everton Lawrence’s (“Black Gold”) unnamed character. He starts up a vulgar argument with Zavala and the two go fist to fist. Zavala ends up winning the fight, but also never reports it. This makes the character a valuable ally and alerts Taylor and Zavala that the cartel has a hit out on both of them, although not much seemed to have been done with this information. Lawrence’s character should have played a bigger role in the movie. There were a few scenes that did not add much forward motion to the story, one of them being a cartel drive-by shooting and unloaded rounds of bullets at Lawrence’s character’s home and killed one of his friends. From that, more was expected from this character and it was disappointing to not see him play a part during the ending sequence.
But along with the drive-by scene, there were a few other scenes that seem forced just to make the characters likeable, and the end of each act was made obvious with awkward fade out moments. In the end, Ayer makes an exciting emotional film. There are many suspenseful moments throughout the movie, but all hell breaks loose at the end when the cartel finally puts their plan into place to kill Taylor and Zavala. The final 15 minutes of the movie are the most memorable, emotional and exciting. The problem is that up until that point the movie lacked an adrenaline filled pace. The car chases, fistfights, drive-bys and gruesome discoveries failed to deliver on the expectation. Ayer, wraps up the film with an ending like no other, but is really the only section that stands out the most. You are brought to such a depressing level, that without the uplifting final minute, the audience is left with an unbalanced story.
“End of Watch” is a fun and exciting movie with great acting on behalf of Gyllenhaal and Peña, but lacks a solid story to make it a great movie. After the last 15 minutes of the movie, “End of Watch” will seem like no other movie you have seen with the emotional roller coaster Ayer takes the audience on. It is not the greatest movie of 2012, but it is a movie that you won’t forget.
-Published in The Oswegonian