Movie Review: End of Watch
Austin360.com | Austin American-Statesman
The writer of "Training Day" and "Harsh Times" brings us more cop movie grit with "End of Watch," a vivid series of impressionistic sketches of a year in the lives of two Los Angeles police officers.
These aren't the corrupt cops writer-director David Ayer built his name on. They're just patrolmen, in a family of officers — sometimes heroic, often cocky, occasionally miscalculating. And in telling their stories episodically, with a rhythm that builds suspense slowly, Ayer gets at the level of trust they have to have for one another.
Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) may be young, but they've been partners so long they're like an old married couple — comically bickering, teasing, picking at each other's sore spots.
Brian is the single, ambitious one. He wants to make detective. He's willing to take a shortcut or two to get there.
Mike is more blue collar — happily married, a father, happy to be where he is in the force. But the uniform hasn't taken the chip off his shoulder. Call him the wrong name when he's arresting you and it's "Go time."
Over the course of a year, we see the shifting fortunes of their lives, shootings that have to be justified by their department, and a steadily escalating violence that spills over the border from Mexico.
Gyllenhaal brings a swashbuckling bravado to Brian, who is something of a player when it comes to the ladies.
Mike has matured in different ways, clinging to juvenile neighborhood notions of "respect," but adult enough to know love when he sees it.
Ayer's film begins with a long lull: 45 minutes of procedure, depiction of the cop community (America Ferrera and Cody Horn are fellow officers) and light touches.
Our two heroes can joke about pulling a guy over and confiscating a gold-plated assault rifle ("It's Liberace's AK-47!"). But we can sense what's coming, even if they can't.
Ayer resorts to that favorite crutch of current filmmakers — the hand-held video recorder (Brian is doing a video project for his night school class), but is so inconsistent with it he abandons that point of view in midscene.
What he manages most masterfully here is the drip-drip-drip of rising tension, a build-up that leaves you with a sense of dread even as you watch characters enjoy the off-duty joys of life — a quinceanera party, a medal ceremony.
And Pena and Gyllenhaal so fully inhabit these well-rounded characters that you worry about what they'll do on this day or night when they climb into their cruiser.
Rating:R for violence, disturbing images, language, sexuality, drug use. Running time:1 hour, 49 minutes. Theaters:Barton Creek, Cinemark Cedar Park, Cinemark Galleria, Cinemark Round Rock, Cinemark Stone Hill, Cinemark Southpark Meadows, City Lights, Flix Brewhouse, Gateway, Highland, TInseltown Pflugerville, Tinseltown South, Westgate.