I tend to watch most of my movies on DVD. Mainly because it’s cheaper to check them out of the library than it is to go to the theater. There are certain movies I feel like I want to see on the big screen, but mostly I’m content to sit at home and watch them on my computer.
That’s why I’m only now seeing End of Watch, even though it came out last year.
End of Watch is a term the LAPD (and probably a lot of other police departments) uses to denote the death of an officer. It doesn’t have to be in the line of duty. No matter what stage of life they’re at, when they die, they’ve reached the end of their watch.
End of Watch, on the other hand, is a visceral, intense, and incredibly good movie from the maker of Training Day and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala. They’re uniforms, driving a black and white in the Newton Division, one of the most dangerous divisions in LA. It includes South Central and sees much of the city’s gang activity.
The movie is filmed, like so many these days, sort of like a documentary. Some footage is from Brian, who is taking some kind of film class. Some is from the cruiser’s dash cam, and both characters wear small cameras on their pocket flaps. Still other footage looks like surveillance footage as it’s shot in night vision green or black and white. There’s even cell phone footage. Put all this together, and you feel like you’re there with the characters (not all of it is told from the cops’ POV).
The other thing that makes this movie different is that David Ayer, the writer/director, has several cop friends, so it’s more authentic and realistic than most Hollywood cop movies are. Having never been a cop, I can’t vouch for it being 100%, but from what I do know of their job, it rings as being truthful. Brian and Mike drive around talking about things that range from deep to stupid, just as any two guys who know one another so well they consider themselves brothers will do. They make racial jokes at one another’s expense, and give one another advice about life.
Mike is married to his high school sweetheart and has a baby on the way. He’s only ever been with his wife and has no desire to be with any other woman. Brian, on the other hand, is single but hoping he can find a woman he can actually talk to, as opposed to them getting bored with one another after sleeping together. Through the course of the movie, he meets and marries Janet, who doesn’t really understand what she’s getting into at first by marrying a cop.
Though the story seems to wander around a bit—understandable since, in some ways, it’s a slice of life tale—everything in it points in one direction, though it’s hard to see at first. Just like so many things in life are. Partway through, the two pull over a guy they suspect is muling drugs, never realizing they’ve pulled over a member of the Sinaloa drug cartel who’s operating in Los Angeles. They see the truth, though, when they inspect his nickel-plated, gem-encrusted pistol and find a gold plated AK-47 under the back seat, complete with matching gold plated thirty-round magazine.
Later, doing a random welfare check, they discover a house the cartel has used for a stash house/torture chamber. It has lots of drugs and lots of body parts in it. Thanks to this, the cartel puts out a hit on them, and some Hispanic gangstas we’ve met earlier when they do a drive-by on a Blood set, take the job.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up this movie. I’d wanted to see it in the theater when it came out but never got the chance, so when I spied it at the library I snatched it up. I’m normally not a big fan of Jake Gyllenhaal because, to me, there’s something slippery about him. I still don’t know what he’s like in real life (though I’ve heard stories), but he certainly excelled in this picture. The chemistry he has with Michael Peña is so convincing that you believe these guys really have known one another for years. If this hadn’t worked out, the movie probably wouldn’t have been half as good, because this sense of brotherhood is pivotal to the plot.
I watched this movie less than twenty-four hours before writing this post and I find myself wanting to watch it again. It’s that good. I’ll certainly be adding it to my collection, because I know I’ll find myself watching it time and time again.
So, if you like cop movies, or just good movies in general, go out and rent, buy, or check out End of Watch. It’s real enough and heartfelt enough that I don’t think you’ll regret seeing it.