a review by Ken Vasquez
Which is, in my very own humble opinion, the best urban/police drama since 'COLORS' (1988). Sure, there have been some rather solid and compelling entries in the genre over the years what with films like 'Dark Blue', 'Traffic', 'Narc', 'Street Kings', to some extent even 'Crash' and the aforementioned 'Training Day'. But some of those films delved into police corruption instead of heroism.
Who better to helm this in depth look at the camaraderie between good and dedicated cops than David Ayer (Street Kings, Harsh Times), someone with first hand knowledge on police procedure and life in the dangerous streets of Los Angeles. Ayer's expertise on law enforcement and the harshness of urban life lend this film a great deal of integrity and validity. Situations between cops and perpetrators is handled with such accuracy and depicted with a realism very similar to the reality show 'COPS'. It should be noted that this movie does not shy away from presenting how garish and brutal police work can and truly be.
The film's hand held and seemingly "found footage" approach is cleverly explained early on in the story making perfect sense. Switching from hidden and portable HD cameras to traditional third person photography the story flows from a steady and calm pace to frenetic and justifiably chaotic making the audience feel as though they're caught up in an intense car chase through the back alleys of South Central or part of a raid at a grimy and foreboding drug den. Los Angeles is without a doubt a character itself filled with a plethora of ethnicities, locations and personalities. Even the diverse soundtrack complements the documentary like visuals.
Jake Gyllenhaal (Jarheads, Brokeback Mountain, Brothers, Source Code) never ceases to impress with the unique roles he portrays ('Prince of Persia' not withstanding). His part as police officer Brian Taylor is honest and sharp, depicting a man who's not at all cocky or dirty but determined to uphold the law without compromising his morals nor his friendship and brotherly bond with his partner. I'm so very happy for Michael Peña (Million Dollar Baby, Crash) landing a starring role opposite a great actor in such a film. Peña is just as proficient in displaying a natural and earnest depiction of a family man devoted to duty and the community. Both these actors had no problem convincing me that they were brothers in arms.
America Ferrara (Real Women Have Curves, Ugly Betty) turns up as a tough, smart mouthed yet loyal officer and Anna Kendrick (Twilight, Up In The Air) plays Gyllenhaal's witty and caring love interest. Character actor Frank Grillo (The Grey, Warrior, Minority Report) as always brings presence in his role of Sarge. I have no idea where David Ayer found the talented actors who bring to life the intensely evil Mexican gangsters but this bunch was truly intimidating. Richard Cabral, Yahira Garcia, Diamonique and Maurice Compte delivered some credible and edgy performances.
Even if you're not a cop, are a fan of nor ever met one, 'END OF WATCH' will surely make you realize what great lengths these men and women go through to ensure your safety. How they, at least the good ones, sacrifice even their lives for each other till the culmination of their "watch" over us.