Keeping It Real With ‘End of Watch’


If you’re someone who complains about how movies don’t understand what it’s like to be a cop, you should see End of Watch. Writer/director David Ayer’s manages to convey a lot about the day-to-day existence that goes with the job: how the men and women who serve deal with each other, how they work their way through the bureaucratic crap that goes with the gig, how unusual and surprising the violence actually is when it breaks up the routine of the job.

Ayer might not be the guy you’d expect to make this movie, since he’s worked on three of the best LAPD dirty cop movies ever. Training Day (script by Ayer) won Denzel Washington an Academy Award. Dark Blue (script by Ayer, story by legendary crime novelist James Ellroy) features a killer Kurt Russell performance and what’s possibly the best  movie representation of Ellroy’s jaundiced worldview. Street Kings (directed by Ayer, screenplay by Ellroy) is almost as good and features the best Keanu Reeves performance of the last decade.

As good as those movies are, it’s hard to imagine rank-and-file members of the department enjoy an endless parade of movies that concentrate on the dark side. End of Watch feels like a conscious attempt to show the other side of the LAPD, a thank you note to all the men and women who certainly helped Ayer with the research behind his other movies.

The movie sets us a premise where Jake Gyllenhaal’s Officer Brian Taylor is lugging around an HD video camera so we get a lot of documentary-style footage of the cops. Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña (as Office Mike Zavala) bring an amazing low-key chemistry to their partnership. The scenes that capture the mundane parts of the job and their off-duty social are the best part of the movie, situations that give the characters a kind of dignity and humanity you don’t often get in a Hollywood cop movie.

Peña might be best know for his comic performances in Eastbound & Down, Observe & Report or Tower Heist, but he absolutely nails the opportunity here with a performance that should create all kinds of new opportunities for him. David Harbour is especially good as Van Hauser, a cop struggling with office politics, and Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez give beautifully understated performances as the cops’ wives.

The action shows up late in the movie with a plot about the Mexican drug cartels operating as a paramilitary force in SoCal. You’ll forget the details of that five minutes after you leave the theatre but the character details might stick with you for a long, long time.

Don’t just take it from me. Check out what LAPD officers had to say after an advance screening:

  • JoeZ28

    I hope they take cues from recent police new storys to make the movie more real. Maybe have the cops shoot 9 innocent bystanders like they did in New York. Maybe shoot a guy in the wheel chair with only 1 arm and 1 leg because he was using an ink pen in a threatening manner like they did in Texas. Or possibly kick down the down of someones house and then shoot them and acknowledge they had the wrong house like they did in Florida.

    • Lance

      Or perhaps all the heroic things that those serving our country do on a day to day basis, but those are too routine to make the news. It’s hard to make a news report on the person who didn’t get killed, the woman who didn’t get raped, etc because of the presence of a uniformed officer of federal, state, or local police. Or the person who didn’t get hurt because of the countless hours of investigation to take a bad person off the streets.
      There are two sides, not everyone is good, even within the ranks of police, but I don’t think that is an argument to disband or to have no support for the difficulties of the job.

    • augestwest

      Joez, I understand and am just as angry about things like that happening, They do all over this country. Some of it is because of over zealous police officers. Like the N.Y. Shooting, It was totally uncalled for. This is why we have non lethal weapons at our disposal. Shotguns with bean/sand bags, Rubber bullets, Tasers and other non lethal weapons that would have worked fine in the N.Y. event. I have seen police in other situations wait over an hour confronting a crazed man with a sword and then used a water hose to take him down. Some of the events are due to lack of correct information and quick draw mcgraw types out there. It needs to stop. Especially the home invasion style of shoot now and asked later crap. So The only way to really do anything about this is to write your senators and ask them to buckle down on this.

    • Travlnbrat

      The media can make the “news” look like whatever it wants. Every cop out there has one ultimate goal at the end of the day…to go home to their families. They shouldn’t have to get killed or risk their life because some lowlife decides he is above the law. Only a truly ignorant person would believe that the reality of police work is what is shown in the media. God bless those who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect even those as pathetic and ignorant as you.

  • “action shows up late in the movie”

    the movie opens with a car chase and shooting :(

  • Ray Carter

    The acting and some of the content excelled in this pic. However, the constant jerking filming used to simulate real life detracted from the movie. Some people in the theatre where I watched the film left because the jerkiness caused nausea.

  • jcrow

    I saw 2 opportunities to pick up long guns during the fatal gun fight. I would like to think that I would have taken them.

  • René De Beaum

    How did the gang miss the two with all their AKs + vantage point??? Stormtrooper aim or what?

  • dave
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