Police Officers Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Michael Peña) are partners who patrol one of the most crime-ridden areas of LA. They are regularly faced with life-threatening situations, and often discharge their weapons. But when they stumble upon Mexican drug cartel business, the situation quickly escalates, and the streets become an extremely deadly and dangerous place. Review of police action-drama End of Watch after the jump.
Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a cop full of bravado. He loves his job and protecting his city, and he isn’t afraid to use deadly force when he deems it necessary. His partner Mike (Michael Peña) is his best friend, his confidant, his brother – Mike is a big family man with a large extended family (who treat Brian as part of it), a beautiful wife (Janet, played by Natalie Martinez) and baby on the way. The two share the strongest of bonds, and would do absolutely anything for each other.
Things on the street are as rough as usual, but they take a turn for the worse when the pair enter a property which is [unbeknown to them] used by a particularly nasty group of Mexican drug cartel members. Stepping on this property is like shaking a beehive, and the boys have created nothing but trouble – they’ve upset the balance and the cartel aren’t happy. The streets are now more dangerous than ever for the pair, who now have a rather psychotic and ruthless group of enemies who want to take them down.
What works in this film is the key relationship between Brian and Mike. The chemistry between them is fantastic, and I had no trouble believing that they really were the best of friends. The off-the-cuff type of conversations we witness between the two are often very funny, and ring true – theirs is a beautiful “bromance” indeed. Performances from Gyllenhaal and Peña are strong, with Peña in particular managing to be both a tough as nails cop, and a kind-hearted family man. Anna Kendrick (as Brian’s love interest) and Natalie Martinez are also fine, but are given very little to do. Unfortunately the same praise can’t be given to the drug cartel members, who are bland yet over-the-top cartoonish villains.
Where the otherwise gripping and engaging film went very wrong was deciding to employ the “found-footage” technique. We are meant to believe that the footage is coming entirely from police car camera footage as well as from Brian who is filming their patrols for a “project”, using a hand-held camera and small cameras pinned to the men’s shirts (um hello, like the LA Police would allow that). The film sets this up and then promptly abandons it within the first 10 minutes (and repeatedly throughout the film) by having footage that can in no way come from any of the above-mentioned sources. Even more confusing is the footage we see from the drug cartel members – there is never any explanation given for how we can see this or why they are filming themselves.
This is a film that is filled with great moments of friendship and intense moments of action, but it is ultimately let down by the frustrating [mis]use of the found footage technique.
By Sam McCosh
Director: David Ayer
Writer(s): David Ayer
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick
Runtime: 109 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: November 1 2012; New Zealand: No date set; USA: September 21 2012