Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Michael Peña) are partners on patrol in South Central Los Angeles, where well-armed gangs battle for control of the streets. Though sometimes buried by profane jokes and put-downs, Brian and Mike’s obvious friendship is at the heart of the story.
The movie spends several months with them, so we also see Brian’s relationship develop with his girlfriend (Anna Kendrick), and we get to know Mike and his wife (Natalie Martinez). But “End of Watch” keeps returning to the job.
Rather than good cop/bad cop, this is a story of good cop/good cop. They may step over a few lines, but they’ll also run into a burning building when necessary.
One line they cross ends up helping a lot of people, but it causes trouble for the do-gooder cops. They make the wrong guys angry, and the audience knows consequences are coming.
I’m not qualified to say this is an accurate depiction of life on patrol in Los Angeles’ nastier places, but there’s an air of documentary to the film that suggests, “This is real.”
Part of that effect comes from quick cuts from a variety of cameras, some of which are used by the characters. Brian is taking a film class as an elective on his way to law school, so he’s always filming something and talking into the camera. A few of the bad guys play with cameras, too, so “their” footage is interspersed with traditional camera shots to give “End of Watch” an intimate feel.
David Ayer, who wrote and directed “End of Watch,” cranks up the tension from the opening credits until the end of the film. This is not the sort of movie I’m interested in watching again. At the end, I felt as though my spinal column had compressed several inches.
There are shocking and gory moments, as Brian and Mike go about their duties, and the film’s intimate approach can be uncomfortable, but “End of Watch” is a good, challenging film. I give it a B plus.
It’s showing at Malcos in Tupelo, Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, as well as Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville.
Look for movie reviews in Scene on Thursdays, and listen each Tuesday morning on Wizard 106.7 between 8:30 and 8:45 a.m.
Kelli Karlson Wizard 106.7 She gives "End of Watch" an A plus.
"I loved it. It made me want to call every cop I know and tell them, "Thank you.'"