(The following review was contributed by R.T Ewell. R.T is a writer, his work can be found here)
I am little late to the David Ayer party but I finally made it. Ayer is responsible for films such as Training Day, Harsh Times, Sabotage, and 2014’s Fury. I have not seen any of the movies I just mentioned but was able to catch End of Watch now which is two years after its release.
End of Watch follows two young police officers in L.A. In a documentary style that you will love or hate immediately. If you don’t like “shaky” cam than this may not be for you as most of the movie is done that way with extremely odd camera angles at times. As for a story, there isn’t one per-se. It follows Officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) as both partners on the police force as well as friends outside of work.
For the first hour of the movie there is not a cohesive story arc, instead it focuses on the relationship between the two officers and the rest of the department. Gyllenhaal and Pena do an excellent job of making us believe that there relationship is true. They joke with each other while showing sides of real depth. It follows them on different patrols meeting a variety of people and situations. I am not sure how realistic the movie is as I do not live in a big city like L.A. but it certainly feels like it is how things go down. Maybe not on an everyday basis but in the grand scheme of things it makes it look as dangerous as the job is in real life.
They never really explain why the movie is in documentary style but Taylor does make reference to filming his show at one point but that’s the only time it’s mentioned. I don’t feel it was a necessary way to go about telling this story. Some of the character choices seemed odd to me, I wondered if it would actually go down that way in the real world. There were a few times I caught myself rolling my eyes wondering if it could actually happen. Being set in a realistic setting, I felt that some of the actions and decisions were a bit ludicrous.
At no time in the movie is it explained how much time goes by. It could have been a week, it could have been years but there is no reference at all to how long it took for all the many different things to happen to them. I feel that it had to be a few years at least in order for me to completely believe the storyline. Also in many ways I believe that it would have been better to focus on the department as a whole instead of just the two partners.
With his writing style, Ayer proved two things in this movie, he wants humor in a very dark place and he wants the movie to punch you in the face when you are least expecting it. I have heard that most of his movies follow these two elements almost every time. Also, characters seem to be more important to him then an overall storyline. If they had just added a little extra and little bit more bad guy I think it would have really helped move the story along. But in the end I know it’s the characters that he wants you to relate to and fall in love with. In many ways it does exactly that.
Michael Pena portrays his role perfectly. He felt like someone that you could trust and would want to be friends with. His mix of humor, honor, and loyalty really showed every time he was on screen.
I have a feeling that David Ayer movies are not going to be for everybody. You don’t get the warm and fuzzies from them at all. They are crude, realistic, and at times very violent. At times I felt like things were happening just for the sake of happening or purely for shock value adding nothing to the story. Before seeing this movie I heard a lot of buzz about how good it was. I must say that I enjoyed it but probably not as much as other people. A gritty police movie. If that’s what you want, that’s what you are going to get. Don’t expect much of story but in the second act things definitely start to come together to tie it all up with a bow.