I’d heard a lot of good things about End Of Watch before I finally got a chance to watch it for myself so I hoped that it would be a film that I enjoyed. It was. I may not have loved it as much as some people did, but I liked how the film seemed to drag viewers along on an intense and extended “ride along”.
Jake Gyllenhaal, with a startling shaven dome, and Michael Pena play two police officers in L.A. who go about their job with a mix of confidence, machismo and a genuine desire to help people. Pena has a pregnant wife, played by Natalie Martinez, who he loves very much while Gyllenhaal struggles to find someone that he feels strongly about, which may change when he meets a smart and lovely young woman played by the smart and lovely Anna Kendrick.
Written and directed by David Ayers (who also wrote slightly similiar movies such as Harsh Times, Dark Blue and Training Day), the biggest hurdle that End Of Watch has to overcome is the feeling of familiarity that may come with the material. The way in which this film is made to feel a bit different from the others written by Ayers is in the found-footage style. Yes, it’s a found-footage film. Sometimes. Gyllenhaal is filming whenever he can as part of a project, he also gets small cameras that he and Pena can wear on their chests and viewers often get to watch proceedings in and out of the patrol car through dashboard cameras. This, at times, can lend everything a sense of urgency and works well on a number of occasions, but what works better is that the format isn’t rigidly adhered to. When it becomes necessary to go back to a more standard camera set-up, Ayers does just that.
The cast all do a great job here, especially Gyllenhaal and Pena jokingly insulting each other and displaying great chemistry together. Martinez and Kendrick get a lot less screentime, but don’t do too badly either, though Kendrick is stuck in the one story strand that just feels clumsy and far too rushed. Support comes from the great Frank Grillo, as well as David Harbour, America Ferrera, Cody Horn and Cle Shaheed Sloan, with the latter playing a gang member who ends up giving Pena some props after an altercation.
Full of enjoyable and interesting individual moments, this may not really break any new ground, but it’s a solid piece of work and serves as a useful reminder of just what it takes (in terms of work practices and courage) to police the streets of America.
End Of Watch was available to rent/buy on shiny disc here in the UK as of yesterday, 18th March. The Bluray has a few featurettes on the disc as well as the film itself. It’s a shame that there couldn’t have been more put on there, considering the improvisations between Gyllenhaal and Pena and what both actors got to do in preparation for their roles.
WRITER/DIRECTOR: DAVID AYERS
STARS: JAKE GYLLENHAAL, MICHAEL PENA, NATALIE MARTINEZ, ANNA KENDRICK, FRANK GRILLO, DAVID HARBOUR, AMERICA FERRERA, CLE SHAHEED SLOAN, CODY HORN
RUNTIME: 109 MINS APPROX