End of Watch (2012)

Honestly, after seeing Training Day, I will never be able to trust a cop.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as two Los Angeles police officers as they patrol the city’s meanest streets of south central Los Angeles. One day, however, they stumble upon a discover that makes them two-wanted men, that puts both of their careers and lives at stake.

Writer/director David Ayer has taken his stabs at the police-force with his past two efforts (Harsh Times, Street Kings) but now, seems like he’s making up for all of that with a flick that could almost come off as a police-recruitment video in a way. Sounds crazy, especially since cops aren’t as handsome as the two leading-men here, but if one dude who’s thinking about what to do for his life, stumbles upon this, the police-force will be able to say they have another in uniform.

But as preachy and heavy-handed as I make that sound, that is not something Ayer is all about with this flick. In fact, as hard as it may try to win points over with the police-crowd out there, the film is still more about the characters, rather than exactly about what they do. This is the study of two guys, who love each other, love their work, and most importantly, love doing what they’re sent out there to do, and that’s to save people’s lives whenever they get a call. This may sound hokey and uninteresting but Ayers actually brings a lot of depth to the story, that at times, may surprise you by how far it goes with itself. You feel for these characters and their surroundings and every time they get a call about something bad going down on the radio, you automatically get worried and you fear for these guys because you have become so attached to them over the whole course of the movie.

Building up an emotional-level for these characters is something that Ayer does very well, but when he’s building that up, he’s also building up a great deal of suspense that caught me by surprise. Granted, people going into this film will probably be a bit disappointed by how there isn’t as much action as the trailers may suggest, but with a story like this, it doesn’t really matter because everything else that’s going on is so strong. However, when they do focus on the action of the movie, it’s exciting, thrilling, and very unpredictable as you have no clue what’s going to happen to these guys or when they’re going bite the bullet. This is definitely what kept me on-the-edge-of-my-seat and had me into this story when all of this other crap would seem to almost take me out of it.

The crap that I’m talking about, is when it seems like Ayer feels the need to constantly weave-in and out of the “found-footage” aspect of this movie. I will say one thing about this movie going in, I was not looking really forward to it because of this aspect and I’m glad that it wasn’t like this the whole time but seriously: either do it the whole time, or don’t do it at all! Even when they do abandon this format, the camera is constantly shaking and breaking all-over-the-place and it made me feel like I was still watching a found-footage movie, except with the camera actually being stuck in a blender. This bothered the hell out of me and I wish Ayer just stuck it straight to the original format of filming a movie, because he had strong enough material to make it work in the first-place.

Then, of course, there’s the typical cop-movie conventions that always seem to plague movies like this. Of course, we got the burnt-out cop, the rookie cop, and the usual crooks that seem like they come right out of another movie. That statement, right there is not a good thing because even though those two other conventions are here, at least they seem grounded in-reality, as opposed to these cartoonish bad-guys that had me laughing my ass off every time they showed-up. First of all, I thought it was dumb how they actually had them film their own murders and crimes, which seemed to come out of nowhere and in this film for no other reason than to just go along with the format they already established in the first-frames. Then, of course, they seem to come out of nowhere in certain scenes where they seem so pissed off about these two cops going from house-to-house and finding out about all of these murders and drugs. It seemed really random for these two cops to eventually get tracked-down by this gang considering there are large-portions where these gangs aren’t even shown, let alone discussed. Seriously, does every gang-member say “fuck” every 2 seconds in their sentences? Especially those Latino ones?

Despite these bitty problems, the real reason why this film works so damn well is because of the work given by it’s two leads: Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. These guys, from start-to-finish, display a pitch-perfect chemistry that is probably one of the best I have seen in quite some time. Granted, not many buddy-cop movies actually have their whole story revolve around the two cops, and actually show them inter-acting with one another on a daily-basis, but this film shows that and accomplishes at showing us how close these guys are. It’s not just the film that does this, though, Jake and Michael both do perfect jobs just messing around with each other, teaching each other life lessons, and even working really hard together on some life-or-death situations. Also, it needs to be added that these guys don’t really have a bad-bone in their body either, but also have a lot of problems in their lives to where you believe them not just as movie cops, but as real cops in general. I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here but you really do believe in these guys, and it makes every conversation they have together is as interesting and entertaining as the one that came before it. I would be terribly surprised if I found out that these guys weren’t best buddies in real-life because there’s just something between these two that really does seem like it went on, and off-screen for them. Please, no Brokeback Mountain jokes there, either.

Consensus: Even though End of Watch suffers when it feels the need to stay within the conventions of your usual cop-drama, it still benefits from the amazing chemistry between the two leads, that make these characters more interesting, more entertaining to watch, and two people that we want to see live on at the end of the story.



  1. Really nice review, we pretty much agreed on the main points. I don’t think it’s overkill to continuously mention how believable Gyllenhall and Pena were, it’s worth every mention as it really made the movie for me.

    Hopefully Ayer can move forward with this new high level of quality without the found footage gimmick, I’m interested to see what he ends up going next

    • I am too but something tells me he may get a bit too carried with this surprising amount of love he’s been getting. Hopefully, I’m proven wrong. Thanks!

  2. I had a good feeling about this one. Crime being one of my favorite genres and all the postive feedback this has got; I can’t wait to see it. Really great review.

  3. Excellent review, Dan. I’ve been curious about this movie, especially since I’m married to a cop, and now I have a strong sense of what does and doesn’t work in this film. There is much here I think I’d enjoy, especially the well drawn character studies you discussed. I’m also glad it called attention to the strong bonds officers form — there’s nothing like knowing someone might have your back, at any moment, when you’re in danger. 😉

    On the other hand, the stereotypical roles and the on-and-off found footage thing will probably bug me. I’ll probably take your advice and give this a go after it comes to DVD.

    • Yeah, go for a rental if you want but if you and your hubby want, give this one a look. It’s not a bad watch and he may just get something out of it and connect with it a lot more. Thanks Stephanie!

  4. Definitely was surprised by the production values despite the found footage premise. It was probably the shakiest with those damn cameras clipped to their shirts. I also was annoyed by how many F-bombs the gangsters dropped. It was trying to be authentic, but it really went over the top. During their scenes, I would start to feel uncomfortably white. I just couldn’t relate to those characters at all, because of the way they spoke. There were some really cool moments of foreshadowing during the film that caught me off-guard because of how deep they were. The whole rant about them needing to “Watch their 6,” the drunken guy at the wedding talking about how a former partner took a bullet for him (despite being the better man), and the moment where Michael Pena tells Jake Gyllenhaal’s character that he’d take a bullet for him. Overall a really emotionally intense movie that left me rattled by the end.

  5. Pretty good consensus of the film. I wasn’t a big fan of the inconsistent found-footage stuff, but the two leads really sold me on the film. Nice review.

  6. No Brokeback jokes nor should there be but I did say in my review that Gyllenhaal brings out the best in his partner as he did in that movie. As you point out Dan you believe in both of them and care for their safety.

  7. As my review of this film suggests, you and me generally agree about the merits of this film.
    I, however, did not mind the predictable ending as much as you as I was taken over emotionally and the final scene with Jake really did surprise me as there weren’t any of your expected grand speeches that we’re so accustomed to seeing.

  8. It’s interesting that so many people have similar reactions to the “found footage” conceit in END OF WATCH. For me, Ayer’s mise-en-scene was primarily in the realm of semi-neo-realism or, if you will, “realist”. This, for me was the overwhelming style and I quickly forgot all about the “found footage” and concentrated on the intelligent, unique and emotional storytelling. I also hesitate to directly disagree with your points regarding the villains, but time and time again – given contemporary culture where it is de rigeur for younger generations to have cams practically affixed to their person as if they were natural appendages, it was highly believable that the scumbags would be documenting their activities almost ad nauseum. The number of times police discover such existing footage when they take down gang-bangers (and even serial killers) is rather alarming. This has a lot to do, I think, with the increasing narcissism infused within many young people – especially those involved in criminal activity. Good piece – always nice when a review sparks contemplation and responses geared to alternate forms of elucidation on a particular picture. It’s also proof that END OF WATCH is a movie worth inspiring such discourse. Best, GregK

  9. Nicely written Dan. I have to completely disagree though. I found ‘End of Watch’ to be empty, lazy, annoying and totally over-rated. It was the closest I’ve come in ages to turning a film off. I found nothing in the movie even slightly engaging, emotional or even likeable. The dialogue was awful, as was the scene selection and the found footage aspect was not worth bothering with. The ‘wedding’ scene was excruciating and felt like it was added later to try to make us care about someone, anyone, in the film. I usual enjoy the genre too. Funny how people see things differently.


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