This One Is Worth the ‘Watch’

Courtesy of Open Road Films

Police dramas have always served a presence as a common staple in Hollywood, whether it’s in the form of a TV show or movie. In the past decade, the movie genre has lost a bit of steam with its recurring clichés and stock characters. Fortunately, the genre could receive a resurgence if handled with correct forthcoming ease with its newest release, “End of Watch.”

LAPD patrol officers Bryan Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) cruise the roughest areas of Los Angeles in the gang-infested South Central area. After returning to the job months after being involved in a shooting, they resume their normal patrol duties until they make several shocking discoveries connected a to a Mexican drug cartel running their operations in the area.

Besides contending with that predicament, the film also explores their daily duty of patrolling the streets in addition to their marital relationships involving Brian’s girlfriend Janet (Anna Kendrick) and Mike’s pregnant wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez).

For every police procedural involving a dynamic duo, the two stars filling in the shoes of those characters need to have good enough chemistry with each other to make the viewer believe the strong bond between them. Thankfully, Gyllenhaal and Peña pull that feat off to a nearly immaculate effect.

Both Gyllenhaal and Peña made me believe they were longtime partners in the LAPD from their first appearance on screen; this  chemistry is especially highlighted in the scenes where their characters are supposed to carry on everyday conversations with one another. The way in which they carry on their banter is comprised of quick-witted timing and precise delivery, an effect that never loses its hugely entertaining effect throughout the film.

The scenes set outside the street patrolling sequences are just as effective in their execution. Whether the primary focus would be one of the officers spending time with their significant other or attending a family gathering, they really open up each of the characters’ personalities in both a humanistic as well as an entertaining fashion. In the role of their significant others, Kendrick and Martinez both deliver commendable performances to assist in conveying the specific tones of those scenes.

Having grown up in South Central Los Angeles for the majority of his childhood, writer-director David Ayer is no stranger to the crime drama genre. His previous credits, which include writing “Training Day” and directing “Street Kings,” are enough to back that up. With “End of Watch,” Ayer marks his second attempt utilizing both key functions.

Ayer’s writing style has an emphasis on dialogue situated upon the obscurity in everyday life situations, which for the most part are very fast-paced and full of simple yet effective humor. Another trend that reoccurs in his writing is the amount of times the F-bomb is dropped by his characters. However, for this film, that aspect gets a little tiring, as it begins to be uttered almost every five words in a character’s dialogue. I never kept track of how many times the word was used, but its final amount will certainly make Kevin Smith and the Neveldine/Taylor duo jealous.

From a directing standpoint, Ayer has shown a vast improvement over his two previous efforts “Harsh Times” and “Street Kings.” He films almost every scene with tight, guerilla-like handheld camera angles to give off a realistic and sometimes dizzying feeling to how cops have to watch every side around them when in the line of duty. It may not be a popular effect due to how frequent cuts are made, but it’s also one that will be rewarding for those wanting realism out of the scene.

For any flaws present in this film, they mostly lie in the supporting cast playing the Latino gang members. They all overact too often to a point that they lose the menace they’re supposed to convey, and it also sometimes lowered their presence as credible villains, too.

Those that are looking for a solid procedural story in “End of Watch” won’t be fully satisfied, but as a realistic, unflinching portrayal on the brotherhood of patrol officers working together in South Central LA, it doesn’t get much better than this. If you like this movie and don’t feel like hugging a cop afterwards, then there’s something seriously wrong with you.

Rating: 4/5