There’s a very specific kind of movie you’d immediately think of when I say a “cop movie,” and it is exactly that kind of film that “End of Watch” so ably resists becoming. It avoids clichéd conventions of the buddy cops but doesn’t set up its two protagonists as polar opposites and rivals either. They aren’t fighting some overly symbolic battle against evil, nor are they navigating a disturbingly grey world.
As Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña give assured, confident, and assertive performances as two ordinary cops who find themselves drawn into a web of crime beyond their wildest imagination. We follow them through their days on the job in the same way a slice-of-life British drama would … although the characters in those movies usually don’t uncover grotesquely disfigured bodies or virtually enslaved humans.
These shocking sights are made all the more unsettling by writer/director David Ayer’s sparing use of them. Sensationalism in a sensational movie by nature loses its sensation. When those same sights punctuate the quotidian, they jolt us out of our slouched position in our seats.
Ayer’s execution isn’t exactly flawless; his opportunistic seizing of the “found footage” filmmaking style feels a little bit forced, and then it is abandoned all together. ”End of Watch” also suffers some minimal damage from ridiculous ethnic actors – I mean, come on, do the Hispanics really not know another word in English other than the f-bomb? But overall, he crafts one hell of an emotionally involving, sensorily engaging, and wholeheartedly engrossing police drama that never strays far from a firm base in reality and humanity. A- /