END OF WATCH is a powerful story of family, friendship, love, honor and courage starring Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as young Los Angeles police officers Taylor and Zavala as they patrol the city's meanest streets of south central Los Angeles. Giving the story a gripping, first-person immediacy, the action unfolds through footage from the handheld HD cameras of the police officers, gang members, surveillance cameras, and citizens caught in the line of fire to create a riveting portrait of the city's most dangerous corners, the cops who risk their lives there every day, and the price they and their families are forced to pay.
Director/Screenwriter David Ayer has an obsession with law enforcement, and the Los Angeles police department. End Of Watch continues his parade of associated films such as Harsh Times starring Christian Bale, Dark Blue, Academy Award nominated Training Day with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke, and S.W.A.T..
Set in the South Central area of Los Angeles County are two young police officers eager to make a name for themselves, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zayala (Michael Pena). Brian and Mike are partners who are as close as brothers, passing the days and nights in their patrol car by taunting and teasing one another to keep the mood light as they encounter the darkness that lives on the streets--murder, child abuse, drug dealing, and human trafficking calls are shocking and wear on the psyche of these men. But the bond they have together helps them to get through what they see at work and live out their lives. Brian has taken up documenting everything with a camera, be it in his hand or clipped to the pocket of his and Mike's uniform pocket. End Of Watch is shown predominantly from the footage Brian captures, as well as footage shot by other characters in the story.
End Of Watch comes across as a standard police procedural drama, full of action and gun fights, the occasional gang banger and drive-by, as well as the insistent presence of drug crimes being committed thanks to the Mexican Drug Cartel. It also provides a hefty dose of comedy, thanks to the antics of Brian and Mike and the incredibly witty and smart dialogue written by David Ayer. But End Of Watch is a great deal more than ordinary. It portrays the hard work and dedication police officers undergo each day with great respect, but also realizes that young officers may be more interested in finding the excitement of the chase than the mundaneness of writing tickets. Brian and Mike are two such cops, men who will strip off their badges and guns to go toe-to-toe with a local hoodlum resident to the happiness of their ego. The movie also touches upon the changing landscape of the Los Angeles streets, having the ghetto no longer being overrun with Black gangs but having them being pushed out by the Hispanics--a true occurrence that is noted not by a White police officer but a Black gang member himself. Ayer knows how to strip the hypocrisy and politics from a screenplay to base it in reality, End Of Watch continues this tradition. Even more so when he shows the gang bangers in their natural habitat, showcasing the stupidity of their actions being caught on tape and the lunacy of how their own ego's supersede common sense.
End Of Watch has a great deal to say about police officers and those they seek to put an end to on the streets of their city yet no one can be seen as completely without flaws even if the good guys are, and remain, the police. The backbone of the film is the relationship between Mike and Brian, the brotherly bond they share as their personal lives fill with joy through having children and getting married while at the same time their professional lives are in turmoil. The phrase, "wrong house, wrong call" echoes in your mind at the end of the second act in End Of Watch. Brian and Mike happen upon a call they come to wish they had never taken, although this will only occur to them at the very end of the film when their story comes to a climactic end that shocks a viewer into a trance as the fate of the two men's lives is in jeopardy. End Of Watch is full of heroics and mistakes, it is an abruptly honest look at two police officers lives, while taking into account the pressure of their jobs and the importance of family. David Ayer has created a remarkable film with End Of Watch that will not only heighten the moviegoers awareness to the plight of police officers but also lighten their spirits with the humor he provides in the story as well. Things may get dark in End Of Watch but it is the darkness that makes the light ever more important.
The found footage craze is most often seen in horror movies and the occasional comedy. End Of Watch uses the technique to portray the gripping story of the film, utilizing not one character's footage but a combination of the officer's captured footage, that of the gang members, surveillance cameras, and even the casual civilian bystander. In a world where everyone is armed with a camera of some sort everywhere they go, End Of Watch is a topical cinematographic achievement. It also makes sure to comment on the negative aspect of having a camera on hand at all times: it may catch something you do not want on tape for all to see should you find yourself in trouble.
Opening the film with a POV shot from inside Brian and Mike's patrol car the on-board camera captures a street chase and the ensuing gun fight that occurs between the two men and the would-be arrestees. In lieu of an introduction to the characters the viewer is given this scene, culminating in an otherwise uneventful mirage of jump-cuts to show that after the fun and games of the shoot-out comes the waiting as the investigation is closed at the crime scene. End Of Watch does not cut corners when it comes to showing the truth behind the job of being a cop, but it does manage to give the mundane and the exciting, as well as the incredibly disturbing images, more edge by having the camerawork and chosen edits deviate from the norm. The infusions of humor help substantially, as when Mike comments that "policing is all about comfortable footwear" after he has been standing around for two hours securing a crime scene.
The entire film, save for some footage here and there, is meant to be seen as from an accessible and everyday camera. Everything is considered private, and the recording Brian and Mike perform on duty is strictly prohibited by their Captain--not that they listen. In order to maintain a rational explanation for Brian and Mike having a camera clipped to their uniform's pocket, or being handheld by Brian on other occasions, is Brian's admittance to taking a filmmaking class at the local college. The camera does not only capture the day-to-day of their jobs as police officers but their lives out of uniform as well. Babies being born and marriages are captured, as are funny moments alone by characters who wish to address the camera with their thoughts; the most memorable belongs to Anna Kendrick's Janet going through Brian's wallet after they have begun dating only to give hilarious commentary on the contents.
The found-footage technique used in End Of Watch aids in the reality of the lives of Brian and Mike, as well as giving an inside look at the lives of the gang members and other community inhabitants who reside in this area of Los Angeles. The angles are not perfect, the framing flawed, and what you see or experience is forgiven for being outwardly violent and disturbing because you are seeing it from an insider's POV. End Of Watch fares better by utilizing the imperfect nature of found-footage to portray the story, aiding in establishing the dichotomy of the lives of the officer's from one hour to the next as well as those they encounter on the job.
The success of End Of Watch occurs not simply because of an engaging story line full of thrilling suspense and dramatic conflict. It is the pairing of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zayala, respectively, that makes End Of Watch more than just another cop procedural drama set on the violent streets of Los Angeles. Writer/Director David Ayer mingles humor and sentiment together in the relationship between Brian and Mike. The result is a consistent riffing between the two men that creates more than a simple bond between partners but a familial bond that is performed to perfection by the two actors in their very different roles.
Using Brian and Mike's cultural differences and their lives as cops roaming the streets of Los Angeles at night, End Of Watch's chemistry between the two men is cemented in their camaraderie. They make fun of each other, Brian with his commentary on Mexican cultural stereotypes aimed at Mike, and Mike making use of Brian's pretty-white-boy exterior combined with his knack for dating women who are more interested in the shallow than the substantial to parlay plenty of jokes. Their casual banter, and the way the two men are at ease with one another affects the audience; Brian and Mike may come across as two thrill seeking boys playing at cops but they do so as a solitary unit, wherein their characters could not exist solely on their own within the narrative. Mike and Brian are shown together throughout, their chemistry is undeniably the strongest narrative function at play in the film and had the connection between the two men not been extended onto the viewer the dramatic turns of events, and the humor that resides throughout End Of Watch would have been lost.
September 21, 2012