One of the most constantly compelling occupations to base a film off of, other than a gangster, is that of a police officer. More specifically, an officer of the LAPD. It’s why the television show The Shield was amazing for 7 seasons straight. It’s why Ethan Hawke and Denzel Washington’s best work to date is arguably in the movie Training Day. It’s why I watch the Sean Penn Robert Duvall film Colors whenever I catch it on TV. It is all common and covered ground, but the dangerous and gritty war zone of South Central LA never allows the material to get stale in our eyes. There is a terrific show on TNT which I should probably review soon called Southland that captures the drama of being a cop in that world. End Of Watch is Southland on steroids. A film that sets itself apart as not just a great LA cop drama, but one of the better cop dramas ever made. And it works primarily because of the CHEMISTRY.
Found footage films have practically become a genre unto themselves. Done correctly, you get the enjoyably original Chronicle. Done incorrectly, you get a Cloverfield or one of the five billion Paranormal Activities. End Of Watch uses the gimmick as a technique but doesn’t make it an overbearing centerpiece of the film. It is not the thing that you will come away with as being fantastic after watching the film. It is the relationship between the two leads that makes or breaks End Of Watch. On paper, it is just a film about two friends working together and living their lives. It sounds pretty easy to translate that concept to film. However, if the CHEMISTRY between the two friends doesn’t feel convincing or affable, the film falls apart. Writer/Director David Ayers lucked out casting two actors who seem to have a rich and real connection.
Say what you will about Jake Gyllenhaal, but he remains one of the most fearless actors in Hollywood. His charm and ability to fit into any role and still exude true humanity is a rare talent. It is still a wonder to me why he isn’t a more popular performer. His character of Officer Taylor reminds me of every cop I’ve ever met. This is also easily the best performance of Michael Pena’s career. Some will more than likely point to his role in Crash. However, he just a small cog in that film. In End Of Watch, Pena carries a lot of the film and gives A+ effort throughout. A nod should also be given to America Ferrera’s almost unrecognizable performance as Officer Orozco. It had to be pointed out to me that it was her. She definitely needs to do more films like this because I can see her pulling off grittier roles.
End Of Watch is a movie that I knew would be good, but still surprised me as to how good. The story itself is somewhat predictable and even a little cliche. However, because you like these guys so much, you forgive it and still want to follow what happens to them. Put on your dress blues….gear up…roll out…enjoy your Christmas…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.