End of Watch

1 Apr

End of Watch


Director: David Ayer

Writer: David Ayer

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick

Motion Picture Rating: R

Runtime: 109 minutes



The US film and TV industry is firmly established around Los Angeles and unsurprisingly the local police force remains a popular subject. Almost all film genres have used the LAPD for inspiration including film noir, gangster, action and comedy. With allegations of corruption and brutality dogging the force since way back, a lot of the output has been critical. In 2011 Woody Harrelson was extraordinarily good in the film Rampart playing a racist, alcoholic and violent LAPD officer. In 2001 Denzel Washington won acclaim playing a rogue officer in Training Day.

Training Day was written by David Ayer and here on End of Watch he adds the role of director. He might not be concerned about saturation in LAPD stories, but I think that he is concerned about so much negativity. For whilst End of Watch reveals some bad behaviour that LAPD cops suffer from, Ayer builds a picture that empathises with the hyper-stressed police. He shows the domestic lives that cops cherish and that are difficult to maintain under the acute pressure of protecting and serving. In a lot of ways this is a different type of LAPD story.

End of Watch follows two officers that have been partners since leaving the academy. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Brian and Michael Pena plays Mike. The film tracks them inside and outside of the precinct, on quiet and on hectic patrols and away from the force altogether. Multiple cameras are used, as per movies such as Chronicle, and the result is a highly intimate and sometimes claustrophobic portrayal of being a cop in a high crime neighbourhood (South Central LA). The more ambitious cop Brian actually carries a small handheld camera with him on patrol and that, plus standard patrol car cameras, are edited in to great effect.

This is an excellent film. I was unsure about the fly-on-the-wall set up during the first 15 minutes, but I was pulled in by the tension and action of some of the crime scenes and by the sheer camararderie of the two cops. Gyllenhaal and Pena become highly believable LAPD officers and the danger that’s put in front of them grows ever more disturbing. I found myself enjoying the company of these two guys, but starting to worry about their safety. That is quite a feat of writing and directing by Ayer and of acting by Gyllenhaal & Pena. Besides sympathising with the police, I also found myself slack-jawed at the casual violence portrayed in South Central LA, a truly nightmarish neighbourhood.

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