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Here is a film that comes out of nowhere and goes straight for your gut. End of Watch is about two cops on duty. We spend roughly three months with them as they patrol their way through south Los Angeles. This is the 21st century/ shaky cam version of Lethal Weapon. David Ayer directs the film with his gut, nothing else. He also wrote Training Day (2001), which tried to go there, but End of Watch succeeds more. His other writing credits include S.W.A.T. (2003) and The Fast and the Furious (2001) but let's not go there.
Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pe\xf1a) are the two cops, they are best friends. It suggests that the job of laying out your lives to protect the citizens is dangerous and it takes men who are probably equally dangerous than the criminals to get the job done right. But then again, the boys have such charming hearts; it's hard not to care for them. All four characters in the film (their better halves including) are such good people that even while the film goes into conventional territory, it doesn't bother you much. You root for these guys.
The performances are absolutely brilliant. Michael Pe\xf1a (who I first noticed in Crash) has always been an excellent actor and just needs to get more roles to exhibit his talent. End of Watch is one of those achievements in his repertoire. Jake Gyllenhaal has a limited range but finds some genuine moments here. The boys carry the film, but it's the girls that lend the support. Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez manage to capture some unique behavioral nuances, which make them seem real, and people who you may know.
The action sequences are visceral and flat-out extraordinary. One crime scene after another, you are right into the situation. Each time. Be it a car chase or rescuing children from a fire. It's like watching one of those America's Most Dangerous something something on TV. Except, it isn't just a petty sensational bribe in the name of evening entertainment. You are always vested into the action, it is thrilling and exhilarating. Soon, they get involved into risky business which has consequences they cannot ignore.
Then comes the climax. I was sitting there with my mouth open when the film took an unexpected turn. Apart from the fact that I had no idea this was coming, I was impressed with the writing and making such a brave choice. Male camaraderie is rarely this affecting. Obviously, all good things come to an end and the film does not go the complete distance despite a touching conclusion. The ending could have been a whole better but if I mention how, it would be a big spoiler (and you can evidently notice how much I've been trying to avoid it).
I don't completely approve of the found footage/ shaky cam format. It has some confounding pitfalls like â€œWho is filming this?â€ or â€œWhy do they need to take a camera there?â€. All you have to do is just ignore those and accept them only when a truly good film is playing before you. I love how this style of shooting is finding other genres to capture apart from horror. We saw great sci-fi films with aliens and monsters - District 9 (2009)/ Cloverfield (2008), a superhero film - Chronicle (2012) and now a buddy cop film. 2012 had two wonderful buddy cop films - 21 Jump Street and this. Make sure you watch them.