‘End of Watch’ offers realistic, gritty cop drama

This film image released by Open Road Films shows Michael Pena, left, and Jake Gyllenhaal in a scene from “End of Watch.” (AP Photo/Open Road Films, Scott Garfield)
By Andrew Schlenger

American University


“End of Watch” is like the “Paranormal Activity” of cop movies. It aims to bring the viewer into the heat of the action through the shaky shots and handheld cameras.

“End of Watch” uses the novelty successfully, creating a sense of urgency and bringing the actor’s point of view to light.

In terms of storyline, “End of Watch” is pretty bare-bones. The plot revolves around the activities of two police officers, Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala. The first is a handsome ex-Marine (Jake Gyllenhaal “Source Code”), the second, a fun-loving Mexican-American and father of four (Michael Peña, “Tower Heist”).

The two partners’ attempts at playing detective leads them to the activities of the area’s violent drug cartels, eventually resulting in a small seizure of drugs and guns.

When Mexican drug lord “Big Evil” (Maurice Compte, “Breaking Bad”) finds out who stole his merchandise, he stops at nothing to extinguish the problem.

While this storyline is straightforward, it isn’t lacking in content. Stellar camerawork, excellent music and genuinely convincing acting make up for the plot’s lack of complexity. The combination produces an effect that conveys sheer emotion, thrill and an alarming sense of realism.

These factors are perfectly displayed in the film’s first scene, which involves a car chase through the streets and alleys of South-Central Los Angeles. Video is captured through a high-definition, dash-mounted camera with audio coming from both inside and outside of Officer Taylor’s patrol car. The chase comes to a close when the thugs crash and a firefight ensues. As the gangsters’ bullets come bursting through the windshield, the sense of fright and terror is extremely palpable.

The experience is almost like jumping into a real-life version of “Grand Theft Auto” with funky, heart-pounding music and indomitable dialogue. (Taylor delivers sensational lines like, “I am fate, with a badge and a gun.”)

Equally compelling is the relationship between Taylor and Zavala. Their relationship is characterized by both hilarious antics as well as the love and trust they have for each other. Taylor and Zavala are more like brothers than partners just as they are more like soldiers than police officers.

The film was deftly shot, written and directed by David Ayer (“Street Kings”). Gritty, raw acting left the footage minimally produced, and it kept hearts thumping and eyes wide. At the same time, the action is never overwhelming.

Scenes of knife-fights and car chases brilliantly complemented the comedic relief and romantically driven subplots.

Disappointingly, the film finishes with a slightly abrupt ending. However, with a fast-paced action thriller like this, a smooth finish doesn’t always happen.