'End of Watch': Actors right on target in fresh, powerful cop drama
A movie review of "End of Watch," a cop movie that feels new, fresh, immediate — thanks to the powerful performances of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as two LAPD patrol officers and the sharp writing of writer-director David Ayer.
Special to The Seattle Times
'End of Watch,' with Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez. Written and directed by David Ayer. 109 minutes. Rated R for strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references, and some drug use. Several theaters.
End of Watch trailer
It's one of the most done-to-death genres there is: the cop movie.
Surely, we've seen it all before. The car chases. The shootouts. The bantering and bonding between the men and women who wear the badge.
Surely, there is nothing new under the sun where cop movies are concerned.
Don't be too sure about that.
"End of Watch" feels new. Fresh. Immediate. Watching it, it's almost as though you're seeing a cop movie for the first time.
Under the glaring brightness of the Southern California sun, "End of Watch" gets right down to street level as it tells the tale of two LAPD patrol officers played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. Its immediacy comes courtesy of writer-director David Ayer's blending of footage from cellphone cameras, surveillance cameras, dashboard cams and minicams worn on the officers' uniforms (as well as some traditional movie cameras) that gives the picture a herky-jerky, down-and-dirty, literally in-your-face, you-are-there feeling.
The sense of riding in a patrol unit, of running down trash-strewn alleys of South Central L.A., of cautiously searching through dilapidated houses where some incredibly ugly deeds are done is so strong that at times it's overwhelming.
But there's more than technical gimmickry at play in the picture. It's the performances that set it in a class by itself.
Gyllenhaal's character, a shaven-headed ex-Marine with a crooked grin and a wiseguy attitude, and Peña, playing an officer with a self-deprecating sense of humor and a rock-solid family life, love police work and love each other like brothers. These characters are excellent at their jobs, and their dedication to the profession and to each other forms the picture's strong emotional core. The rapport between the men — joshing easily one minute and alertly protecting each other the next — is palpable and totally believable.
Ayer's writing is sharp. He knows this territory, having grown up in South Central and having written "Training Day," and his dialogue is pungent and naturalistic. His story is episodic and almost plotless, with the officers' encounters with a hyperviolent drug cartel giving it a little overarching structure. But it's in its grittiness and raw honesty of the portrayal of its characters that make "End of Watch" so powerfully compelling.
Soren Andersen: email@example.com