Two enthusiastic LA police officers meet their match when they encounter a gang member during a routine traffic stop.
Jake Gyllenhaal has been quiet of late. His last big screen outing was Source Code, a well intentioned film that did not quite live up to the hype. It could be that Gyllenhaal has been trying to choose his movie outings more carefully since Love and Other Drugs and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, or it could be that he has been lying low in fear of Taylor Swift releasing an angsty song about their breakup. Either way, End of Watch is not the film that it could have been, Gyllenhaal obviously enjoys playing anything other than the hipster weirdo that brought him to fame in Donnie Darko, and it is clear that Officer Brian Taylor is one of those characters. Gyllenhaal and co-star Pena have a great rapport on the screen, and Gyllenhaal tries to inject some life into his character, but he just comes off as snobbish and thoughtless.
Michael Pena plays the stereotypical Latin American cop in La, who has more struggles than his white partner. Pena allows his character to be warm and likeable, but other than that, he is not given a lot of room to grow. The actors work best when they are on screen together and good naturedly teasing one another. Anna Kendrick is given incredibly little to do, other than be a catalyst for Jake Gyllenhaal’s character, and while she is fine at this, it is hardly a good use of her talents.
Writer / Director David Ayer has made a name for himself by creating dramatic films centred on the police force. His breakout film Training Day gathered him a lot of attention, but S.W.A.T and Dark Blue were bland and uninteresting. Sadly, the same can be said for End of Watch. It seems that the whole idea of the film was to counteract Denzel Washington’s corrupt cop in Training Day, but instead of taking a look at the good work that police officers can do, this movie feels like an episode of the ill fated cop drama Southland; rookies whose enthusiasm is unbound, get themselves into violent trouble. It may be an interesting contrast to Training Day, but it is unoriginal. As well as this, the film is messy and badly paced, with the final shootout coming as a surprise to no-one but the two cops.
There is also the issue of the method of filming; it is said, early on, that Gyllenhaal’s character is filming their work as police officers for one reason or another, but the fact that the audience gets to see the gang members talking between themselves and making plans is never explained. Have they stolen the camera? Is this footage found after the events took place? The audience never knows.
In all, End of Watch feels familiar and uninspired. There may have been a good reason for making the film, and Gyllenhaal and Pena speak highly of their time on ride-alongs as training, but End of Watch is unoriginal and messy, and the chemistry between the two leads is not enough to carry the film.