End of Watch: A look at the boys in blue
By Jayson Burns
Cops have it rough. Police are responsible for upholding the law and keeping everyone safe while facing a great deal of disrespect and scorn from some members of the community — not to mention an all too real possibility of death. This is exactly what End of Watch tries to convey and, thanks to its interesting style and character development, succeeds in portraying.
End of Watch follows two police officers, Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Michael Peña), as they patrol the streets of Los Angeles. Both men are considered to be hotheaded by other members of the force and are known to mess around, but through several dangerous calls, they prove their efficiency and courage. On their home-fronts, Mike is expecting his first child and Brian is trying to find a woman to share his life with. These plans are soon put in danger when Brian and Mike begin to stumble upon crime scenes involving the Mexican drug cartel and become targets for a local, violent gang.
The plot of End of Watch doesn’t necessarily stick with the conflict between the two cops and the drug cartel every step of the way, even though it is the primary focus. Instead, the film often shows unrelated crime scenes and emergencies like a domestic disturbance and a house fire, as well as family events like Mike’s cousin’s Quinceanera. The film is, in a way, kind of set up like a police reality show. While I think some people might be put off by this (I was at first), these scenes really help in building the characters, which helps the audience connect with them; if they were loose-cannon cops on the edge and not a pair of normal guys, there would not have been nearly as much tension. Regardless, everything still flowed very well together up until the satisfying conclusion.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña do an excellent job as leads in the film, building a solid and believable camaraderie between each other. They show their characters’ strengths and weaknesses well and, in my experience, act the way real cops – and people – act. Natalie Martinez and Anna Kendrick as Mike and Brian respective love interests made for good supportive characters, even though their screen time is minimal. All of the other cast members are good as well, with Maurice Compte, Yahira Garcia, Diamonique and Richard Cabral portraying particularly despicable gang members. Really, the only complaint I can come up with for the acting lies with America Ferrera as Officer Orozco, who seemed slightly wooden at times.
When the movie first starts, it is implied it was filmed in the same style as the “found-footage” films made to seem as if the characters themselves were filming. It does indeed follow this formula for the most part, but there are many scenes shot in a more conventional style. This was a little jarring to me at first, until I realized that End of Watch never claimed it was “found-footage” and that the mixture of both styles really helped piece the plot together. The script was also very good, with my one and only issue being the countless use of profanity (Yahira Garcia’s character alone must make up a third of it). I also wish they hadn’t used computer generated blood spurts for the fight scenes. Other than that, everything seemed fairly realistic.
End of Watch is a great success in both film style and storytelling, and is a production I’d recommend to anyone.