David Ayer’s, writer of Training Day, movies tend to deal with the same subject matter, the cops and gangsters of South Central LA,. This holds true for End of Watch which follows Officers Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal and Zavala (Michael Pena) as they patrol the gang infested streets of Los Angeles. Unlike Training Day, End of Watch is about honest cops. Normal guys doing an extraordinary job in a dangerous city. Unfortunately this movie is no where near the caliber of Training Day.
The plot is paper thin. Eager cops doing there job so well that the Cartel puts a bounty on their heads. This is told to us by a stupid insert scene showing a Hispanic man in Mexico on a cell phone telling his gangs in LA that he wants them dead. This scene is complete with a useless night vision effect for a reason that escapes me. The film is shot partially using the “found footage” technique and switching to the traditional camera shots for the more cinematic moments. While I tend to enjoy some found footage movies, this one gives me a headache as it accurately reproduces the feeling of someone holding a camcorder. That may sound like a compliment but it renders some parts almost unwatchable. What really makes the use of this technique pointless is that the movie shifts tone constantly. At one point it feels like your there on a ride along then it goes crazy and feels like a comic book. I appreciate Ayer trying to use the camera to give the audience the sense that they are there in the action, it just didn’t work for me.
The good is that Gyllenhaal and Pena’s performances are great. It feels like these two have been partners and best friends for ever. Their interactions with each other and others around them feel genuine and never forced. They smack talk, talk about their home lives, talk about their past and it all feels real. The good news is that Gyllenhaa and Pena’s interactions are what dominate the majority of the film. I’m guessing Ayer realized how week the plot was and leaned on what was the strongest. If that’s the case than Ayer would deserves a lot more praise as a director. The supporting cast is serviceable but Maurice Compte, Richard Cabral, Diamonique, Yahira Garcia who play the gang tasked with killing Taylor and Zavala gnaw on every bit of scenery they can find. They’re bad. Real bad.
In conclusion, End of Watch is a decent film with wet tissue paper for a plot and terrible performances by some of the supporting cast. Despite all the negatives I have pointed out, the film is worth watching to see the stellar performances of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena and for a few entertaining moments.