Jake Gylenhaal and Michael Pena team up to clean up the streets of South Central LA in the action-drama, END OF WATCH.
Gylenhaal and Pena are Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, LAPD officers who man one of several beats on the streets of South Central Los Angeles. Although their daily routine is no walk in the park, it becomes even more dangerous when the two discover that a drug cartel is operating out of their precinct.
The cartel is not just trafficking drugs, but people too.
Writer-director David Ayer seems enamored with the life of law enforcement officers. With screenwriting credits including TRAINING DAY, S.W.A.T, THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and HARSH TIMES, END OF WATCH would appear to be another revved up action thriller full of bullets, bloodshed and mayhem. Although it does feature all of the above, sometimes to dizzying effect, the focus is on the men behind the badge, their willingness to serve and their fragility as human beings.
From the outset, a voice over from Taylor informs us that he is no different than anyone else, but that it’s his purpose to protect and serve, and that’s exactly what he’ll do. We see all of this through their actions, interactions and encounters with criminals, their fellow officers and also in their personal life. These moments allow Taylor and Zavala to become well-rounded characters, ones which are deeply flawed, completely benevolent and ultimately heroic.
The film works best when it meanders, following these two in their patrol car, allowing them to ramble about their fears, aspirations and loved ones. As cops in South Central, fear and danger is always lurking around the corner, and Ayer understands this. The nearly plot-less picture succeeds in large part due to this fact, as it understands the rhythms of patrolling officers and soaks every last bit of entertainment out of their daily grind.
Gylenhaal and Pena find an on-screen chemistry that’s rare amongst actors. These two never upstage one another, but find that sharing the limelight is mutually beneficial. Their us versus all mentality, whether it’s the force or the criminals, serves their friendship and patrol well.
END OF WATCH is an invigorating slice of life action-drama that I highly recommend.