In the gritty new cop drama End of Watch, we follow a typical day in the lives of a two LAPD officers, Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Peña), working the mean street of South Central Los Angeles. The day turns deadly when the two stumble upon a crime scene that puts both their lives in jeopardy.
Written & Directed by David Ayer who was responsible for Training Day, Dark Blue, Harsh Times and Street Kings – all cop dramas, Ayer’s thankfully puts a fresh spin on his usual shtick by incorporating a shooting style most often seen in found-footage films. Ayer weaves together a rich visual tapestry of diverse footage from handheld HD cams of the police officers, night-cam of gang members discussing their next move, CCTV and nosy citizens to create a Cop drama for the Twitter generation where the action is seen through the lens of societies current obsession with self-documentation.
The up close and personal cinematography really lends the movie a strong sense of immediacy – such as, during an edge-of-your-seat scene where Gyllenhaal & Peña dash through a burning house where it was all filmed using camera rigs attached to the actors bodies which really places the viewer in in the action. The camera style also lent the ride-along scenes a sense of intimacy where very funny and touching dialogue scenes were filmed from the front windshield in one take thus giving the actors a chance to flex their thespian muscles. The move also boasts a solid female cast that includes Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera and a near unrecognizable turn by Magic Mike’s Cody Horn who plays a butch female police officer.
End of Watch has a lot of things going for it – the strong sense of camaraderie between Gyllenhaal & Peña is a joy to watch and almost makes up for the shopworn turns in the main plot and the daring shooting style is exciting though a little hectic at times. All in all, it’s a unique and watchable take on the traditional cops and robbers tale.