Officer Zavala: Comfortable footwear. Police work is all about comfortable footwear.
David Ayer knows a thing or two about writing cop movies. Unfortunately, directing them is bit more of a struggle for him. With his latest police drama, END OF WATCH, he decides that, in order for him to keep the genre fresh, he must leave the crookedness that he wrote so well in TRAINING DAY behind him, and tell the story of two earnest Los Angeles police officers. The approach isn’t necessarily novel but it is at the very least valiant. It’s how he decides this story should be told that we should call the cops on him for.
Police officers, Taylor and Zavala (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena), are back at work after a month’s leave, while one of their on the job shootings was being investigated. They were naturally exonerated and being the eager, young lads that they are, they are almost giddy to be getting back to work. Taylor is capturing this momentous occasion, and all subsequent police dealings, with his digital camera, which he explains as necessary to fulfill his law school elective film component. Not only are we asked to buy into this flimsy justification for the camera’s presence, but then we are subjected to watch the actual footage he gets. Ayer then cuts back and forth between Taylor’s camera and his own omniscient point of view whenever he needs to, occasionally cutting in other video camera footage that has mysteriously been obtained by gang members who thought it was a smart idea to capture their drive-by’s for prosperity. It is jarring, to say the least, and at times, so nonsensical in terms of perspective, that it becomes very difficult to stay in the film.
END OF WATCH does have two things going for it and, for cop flick fans, they may even be enough to make the experience enjoyable. These two things are Gylenhaal and Pena. Together, these partners feel like genuine partners, the kind who will always have each others’ back, no matter what. They are forceful and violent when they need to be and relaxed and supportive when that’s what called for. Their believability elevates the overall believability of the film, which, between the perspective issues and the horribly amateurish acting from the supposedly frightening Mexican gang members, this film desperately needs. At least Ayer succeeds in bringing one great cinematic truth to light; Police officers in South Central Los Angeles have it rougher than any other … Wait. You knew that already? Never mind then. End of review.