David Ayers knows the streets of Los Angeles and has been chronicling police tales for decades. The man who wrote Training Day is back with his directorial debut in End of Watch. The film is a stunner and stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena as partners who work one of the most dangerous patrols in the LAPD.
Immediately the most striking aspect of the movie is the chemistry between Pena and Gyllenhaal. These two seem more like brothers than partners, and that is by design. The camaraderie simply is electric. Although these two come from wildly different backgrounds, it is clear within a millisecond of film that each would leap at the chance to take a bullet for the other.
Ayers tells his story in the most unique of ways. Gyllenhaal’s character tells everyone who will listen that he is taking a film class and that is why he chronicles everything he does on video. He is often warned that such images could be used against him in police corruption or abuse cases, but why should he worry? He and Pena are on the up-and-up and doing everything they can to make the city’s streets safer.
The film alternates between what Gyllenhaal and his partner see (both have mini-cameras strapped to their chest pockets), video captured by Gyllenhaal’s handheld and Ayers' camera that is interwoven efficiently and effectively. It is a bold move for a filmmaker in his first feature to utilize a myriad of different video images to tell his story. And it pays off in droves.
What also shines about End of Watch is that it shows the sacrifice made by those who cherish the lives of policemen and women. Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez play the love interests of Gyllenhaal and Pena, respectively. It is there the audience feels the real pain that is sending a loved one out onto the mean streets, not knowing if they’ll come back. Much was made at the Democratic Convention about the sacrifice of our military families and that is beyond admirable. End of Watch shows the type of support that exists for those who protect us domestically, and it is home grown.
Gyllenhaal and Pena are street cops, yet when they stumble on some seedy business practices by what they initially perceive to be local gangs, End of Watch gets even more serious. In fact, we learn, the South American cartels have infiltrated Southern California and they are none to happy with our two heroes. They become marked men and it is there that End of Watch goes from serious to sizzling with its drama.
There are few police films that capture the essence of what it means to be a cop in a modern major city like Ayers' latest work. Those who wear the badge should extol the virtues of End of Watch with extreme joy. It has given this writer an appreciation for what they do beyond any piece of filmmaking in recent memory.