To say that a pair of buddy cops are doing their job so well that a violent drug cartel orders a hit on them is saying something.
Amidst shootouts, burning buildings, and insults being shared, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña carry End Of Watch and help create a truly intense drama.
By the end of the film, the plausibility and high drama create a film that should be difficult to forget. Especially when you invest so much in the leading pair that you worry whenever a gang member pulls out a gun.
Any veteran of LA cop films should recognize Gyllenhaal and Peña as being the archetypal pairing.
Two buddy cops who get through the day with a mix of sarcasm, playing around, and knowing that at the end of the day they have a loved one to go home to. That creates high camaraderie in a well-known setup that still feels worth digging into.
For the pair to pull off their performance, they need to play off each other for those long hours in a cop car. Gyllenhaal plays Officer Taylor who is the mouthier one compared to Peña’s Zavala who remains more focused on his work.
While Taylor is pulling pranks during arrests, Zavala is more concerned with his family and getting home in one piece. Not only does that enhance the chemistry between the two characters but makes the drama seem even more intense.
End Of Watch goes beyond most buddy cop movies to fill out the backstories of the officers. Without knowing it, you can tell that Taylor and Peña have been in the same car for years, such is their easy-going relationship.
You likely do not need to have it spelled out that Zavala’s wife and Taylor’s girlfriend are pretty much sisters-in-law. That they are still tied to their duty to serve and protect despite the ramped-up stakes simply pushes up the intensity.
Another LA Cop Drama
There are few better cities to set a cop drama than LA. Consider the modern classic, Heat, and the almost claustrophobic nature of the city provides the ideal backdrop for a crime.
End Of Watch has a lot to live up to just to slot in amongst a somewhat congested sub genre yet in Gyllenhaal and Peña they have the right actors to carry it off.
Of course, being an LA cop comes with its own dangers on an everyday basis so the film throws the pair into the deep end. While Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and his partner, Zavala (Peña) are used to dealing with gangs, End Of Watch creates high drama.
In the vein of Training Day, you can imagine a film simply by following a pair of LA cops on a typical day. For a film with just under two hours of runtime, that requires a bit more to draw in a crowd.
When Taylor and Zavala come across something that could go a long way to ending a violent drug cartel their instincts as cops leads them to pursue it. That’s their job yet the film builds in atmosphere and raises the stakes for a coherent, thrilling cop drama.
What may set End Of Watch away from the rest of the LA cop genre is the choice of camera shots. Director David Ayer even uses footage seemingly shot by Officer Taylor for his own documentary project, however dangerous that seems for his career.
That gives the film a somewhat unsettling, wholly realistic look and feel that makes you root for the cops even more. What helps is how clear the line is between the good guys (the cops) and the bad guys (gun-waving gang members).
While Training Day played with the corruption of LA cops, End Of Watch embraces the contrast between good and evil. Perhaps if there was some ambiguity as to who the audience should be rooting for, the film would have lost some of its dramatic elements.
Instead, you can fall for and invest in the buddy cops so much that you worry about whether or not they will make it home.
Some films have such a promising premise that simply coming up with a plot seems excessive. End Of Watch may be one of those films where you could imagine yourself being entertained simply by watching the characters interact.
They could be wasting away time by trading insults or thrust into a high-caliber situation grappling with gun-toting gang members.
The key is in Ayer’s direction to portray this as a reality cop show complete with running camera shots and close-ups. To keep a level on proceedings, Ayer allows the chaos to exist around the camera instead of making it the primary focus.
That leaves the viewer feeling even more concerned with the buddy cops in an energetic yet cohesive film.
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