I am fate with a badge and a gun.
Bryan Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) are two LAPD officers who work in South Central Los Angeles. A usual work day for them consists of car chases, fist-fighting with potential arrestees, and dealing with the odd gangland shooting. After following up on a susp*cion from Taylor, the two officers uncover a small cache of money, firearms, and other grisly sites that all tie back to a drug cartel. Appearances from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), confirm what Taylor and Zavala already suspect: something of grave importance is happening right in front of them. Little do they know just how far things will progress and to what lengths they will have to go to.
When I sat down earlier this afternoon, I had no idea I would be in for the type of experience I had with "End of Watch". I've seen the full-length trailer at least half a dozen times, and while brief glimpses from key scenes are in the trailer, it's not until after you've seen the movie in full context that you understand what those "brief glimpses" really entail. One thing I knew going in was that this film would be shown from the perspectives of a handful of different hand-held cameras, à la "Cloverfield", "Paranormal Activity" and other such movies. It certainly had the potential to be as jarring or unrecognizable as a few of those other movies, but barring a couple of instances where I could hardly make out who was who, those issues were minimal.
There is so much that I enjoyed with this film. From the day-to-day interactions between Taylor and Zavala, and the other people in their division, to the grittier action sequences. But above all the aspects that I loved the most were the levels of plausibility and realism. One such moment was the movie's introduction. For nearly three to four minutes, all you could see was what happened from the point-of-view of a squad car's dashboard camera. That was how we were introduced to Bryan Taylor and Mike Zavala. In those brief few minutes, we were shown what the characters of both men would be throughout the course of the movie. Another scene was Taylor and Zavala's responding to a probationary officer's cries for help over the radio. Once the arrived on the scene, things were much different than what they, and I myself, expected them to be.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña were fantastic in their respective roles. From the quieter moments of down-time to the intense and "edge-of-your-seat" points, both men are completely engaging and believable. They give you the sense that you are right there beside them in their day-to-day, assisted greatly by the changing cameras. Before the end of the movie you get the sense that the two men are brothers. That they would do anything for the other. It's that fact that makes the climax of "End of Watch" all the more impactful and telling.
Anna Kendrick (Janet) and Natalie Martinez (Gabby) were both convincing and entertaining in their respective roles as Taylor and Zavala's wives. There are two scenes in particular, one that consists of just Taylor and Janet in the former's car, and the other with all four attending a wedding, where I literally laughed out loud at what was happening on-screen. They were also appropriate during the more touching moments.
There were a couple of surprises that actually did surprise me. One was a little too obviously telegraphed earlier in the movie, but both were nonetheless handled perfectly. Writer-director David Ayer, who wrote "End of Watch" in six days and also wrote "S.W.A.T.", did a fantastic job with this movie. If you haven't seen it by now, I seriously recommend that you do. Just be prepared for an abundance of swearing.
This was a review by tMG, thank you very much for reading.