I have stated before that crime is one of my favorite genres. Every year, plenty of crime movies come out, but most of them are just okay. After The Departed and Gone Baby Gone, I’ve failed to see a crime movie that made me instantly love it. One surprise awaited me earlier this year though; that would be Bernie. But as much as I enjoyed it, that was far from your typical crime story. It was great, but that was not true and blue crime. End of Watch had been on my radar for some time; I didn’t really know what to expect from it. The trailer was hard to read, and for some reason, I never had a good feeling about it. As it turns out, End of Watch simply blew me away. Mostly, everything was perfect. What separates this from other movies in its genre – among other things – is the realism. You end up forgetting you’re even watching a movie. Most-cop movies now a day have been about crooked cops and how they abuse power; at times, I had to remind myself that there are good cops in the world. It’s nice to have cops portrayed as the heroes some truly are.
End of Watch doesn’t really have a story per say; it follows these two cops around on their patrol day after day. It’s like watching a life of a cop, all aspects of it. I don’t want to spoil the things they get into, but I will give a brief summary of the main plot that comes into play as the movie progresses. It’s actually intertwined in a neat way. Bryan Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) are L.A. Police officers that see more action that most cops elsewhere would have to do. Over the course of a few days, they keep finding evidence that connects to a Mexican drug cartel. This is different though, it’s bigger than both of them could have ever excepted. The question is if they can get out before it’s too late.
David Ayer craftily turns what could have been a generic, silly, and just B-movie into something special. The plot is structured marvelously. Ayer expertly mixes the real plot in first two acts or so – without you knowing – while it all comes together in the end. Finally, a trailer that doesn’t completely ruin the story. Human nature is explored well, bringing the violence some depth. This isn’t the action you see most of the time. It’s fast and brutal. They don’t drag the movie out for car chases. The action scenes themselves were handled extremely well. Detail is given (aside from the gang members) anywhere it could have been placed. I always knew Ayer could write a good screenplay; now I know he can be a good director as well. He’s stayed in the crime genre for his career, but he does it well.
David Ayer wrote the script in six days. He has written and directed many cop movies. The one he’s most noted for though, is Training Day; he solely wrote it. The best thing the script has to offer is the dialog among the two main cops (just like Training Day). Their exchanges were funny, insightful, clever, and helped establish such a genuine friendship with the two cops. Also, the dialog is great with all the cops. We see groups of villains and anti-hero’s that have chemistry and are like a family. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this done with the good guys. Another thing I loved is how he brought in powerful questions. What does being a hero mean? What does it in title? Many themes are explored – subtlety I might add.
The acting was phenomenal. One of the biggest accomplishments in the whole movie is the excellent chemistry Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena have. They sell you on the characters and you buy that these two guys are that close. Whenever both of them are together you get that feeling they’ve been doing their job together for years. Both Gyllenhaal and Pens give their best performances to date. I’ve always liked both actors. They’ve never given a “wow” performance though. All that changes with this. Their timing and range is flawless. Not once did I think either of them weren’t believable as cops. Both of them prepared for this role extensively. They rode in a real patrol car for five months, got tased, and according to Gyllenhaal actually witnessed a real murder. I don’t know how the rest of the year will turn out, but they deserve Oscar consideration at the least. Anna Kendrick, Cody Horn, America Ferrera, Frank Grillo and David Harbour all deliver in their roles as well.
The cinematography is great, for the most part. Throughout the movie Officer Taylor is documenting his life for a class he’s taking. Found footage movies attempt to put you in a here and now situation; it has never done this for me. The ones I have seen always fail to add anything to the story or use the style to do anything interesting. All they do is get me dizzy and make me wish it wasn’t shot that way. Here, however, it’s a different story. It brings you into the story and ramps of the intensity level. Only a few times throughout did it ever not work. The found footage is not used for the whole movie, but a good deal of it. Overall, this style has never been utilized to better effect.
William Friedkin – the director of The French Connection - stated that End of Watch was one of the best-cop movies ever; if not best. He went on to praise how they managed to capture cops lives. Real cops have praised this as well. I’m no cop, but I am in full agreement with everyone on that. Out of the entire movie, there was only one unrealistic thing that caught my eye. In the end, it’s so small; it doesn’t matter in the least. My one problem had to do with the Mexican gang members. They were a bit too stereotypical. After watching interviews, real cops have been saying it would appear that way, but certain areas it’s really like that. Overall, everything adds up to one hell of an experience. The performances and script help give some serious heart to it all. You are engaged and care all the way though. Training Day was great; still, this beats it out. Since I love crime, End of Watch is my favorite movie I’ve yet to see this year. To quote one of Ayer’s other movies,” King Kong, ain’t got s**t on this!” Seriously, this is far better than any of the King Kong movies.