Director: David Ayer
MPAA Rating: R
Studio: Crave Films
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña’s bromantic buddy chemistry as a pair of young LAPD officers working South Central L.A. gives energy to the gritty, vivid, intense but contrived End of Watch.
Yet another look at Southland cops written and directed by David Ayer (Training Day), this one features an unfortunate central gimmick — shaky, Cops-style “found footage” made to look as if we’re watching the action unfold through car cams, surveillance cams and Gyllenhaal’s own tiny camera that he’s filming for some vaguely defined college class project. Of course, Ayer only bothers using shaky “found footage” when it’s convenient, but an already overworked movie cliché gets ludicrous by the time we’re viewing footage from cartoonish hard-core Latino gang members during intense confrontations. On the upside, the movie gives Gyllenhaal and Peña a terrific chance to strut, screw up, talk about sex, mock each other for their cultural differences, share confidences as they put their lives on the line and try their best to be honest, right-spirited warriors. Peña’s character is happily married to his high school sweetheart (Natalie Martinez), with whom he is expecting a baby; Gyllenhaal’s character is relationship-phobic, but he finds a nice, cool potential partner, nicely played by Anna Kendrick.
We care about these two young guys as they deal with a city rotten with child abuse, drug addicts, gangs, burning buildings and the ruthless Sinaloa drug cartel. If the bad guys and women weren’t so relentlessly one-dimensional, our heroes would have had adversaries worthy of them. Even with its episodic, stop-start pacing, End of Watch commands attention, though it does feel like a TV pilot waiting for a green light.