End Of Watch is the latest gritty cop thriller from writer/director, David Ayer. He’s made an eye opener of a movie that gives us a glimpse into what it’s like to patrol the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles. And I’ll tell you one thing, I never want to be abandoned on those streets. Like, ever.
The film centers on Officer Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Officer Zavala (Michael Peña), two rambunctious young cops-slash-best friends who get in a little too deep with a drug cartel after inadvertently making a pretty gruesome discovery.
The story is told through a collection of “found footage”. Officer Taylor, played with skill by Gyllenhaal, is documenting his life for a film class he’s taking. It’s a weak excuse for a stylistic and narrative device that ultimately doesn’t amount to much. By the end of the film you’re waiting for the big pay-off – Officer Taylor’s cinematic masterpiece – that never comes.
What that device does succeed at, however, is showcasing the chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Peña. When we first meet the two cops it’s unclear as to whether or not Ayer wants you to like them or hate them. They’re arrogant, immature and unruly. But gradually you discover that there’s a lot more there - a strong brotherly bond. The two actors bring out the best in each other and are surprisingly funny, considering the subject matter.
The film also stars Anna Kendrick and America Ferrera like you’ve never seen her before. Ferrera plays a brash, foul-mouthed cop with a big chip on her shoulder. Ugly Betty is nowhere to be found, she’s cowering somewhere in a corner scared as hell. This is the farthest from sweet I’ve ever seen Ferrera. And I liked it.
That being said, this is not an easy movie to watch. I can usually stomach violence but there are a few scenes that will have you covering your eyes and in my case, ruling out ever pursuing a career as a Los Angeles cop. I’m far too sensitive to glance down at someone who has been beaten up so bad that their face has caved in and walk away not an emotional mess, something Ferrera’s character Orozco pulls off with flying colors.
And while this is definitely a thriller, it also has a surprising amount of heart. Ayer works that duality with great skill. The woman beside me was sobbing for the last fifteen minutes. The same woman who had told me that she hates cop movies. So if that’s any indication, this film might have what it takes to reach a pretty wide audience.
With one week down and one more to go, I’ve surprisingly enjoyed every movie I’ve seen so far at TIFF. The ball has to drop soon. Looking forward to what this week will bring. Stay tuned!
Attached - Jake Gyllenhaal at the End Of Watch premiere