Directed by David Ayer, "End of Watch" is a police drama that celebrates the value of friendship and the all too frequently unsung efforts of police officers to try to keep the rest of us free from the violence and evil the officers constantly endure. The movie is set on a rough police beat in South Central Los Angeles and follows the activities of two young officers, Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhall) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) as they cruise the streets and fight crime. Some scenes of the movie take place in the police academy or the stationhouse and show the cameraderie among the men and the women in uniform.
The movie is a mix of introspection and action. Brian and Mike depend upon each other for their lives, and they are fast friends. As they drive the streets they discuss their families, their respective ethnicities and backgrounds, their dreams and their women. Mike has been married to his high school sweetheart for eight years, while Brian has found a new romantic interest that develops in the course of the movie. The two men are close in a macho sort of way.
When not in their car, the movie depicts the life of violence and risk in the day-to-day world of the police in a crime-ridden area. The movie shows a variety of calls, some serious some not, as Brian and Mike look for missing kids, investigate drugs in a sleazy bar, engage in fisticuffs with a small-time crook, rescue small children from a burning home, and much more. Not all the the situations are made clear. As the movie develops, the action revolves around a large Mexican drug cartel that has its grip on the South Central LA Beat. Brian and Mike are drawn progressively deeper into investigating this cartel with scenes of human trafficking, among other things, leading to a escalating violent close.
The movie captures grungy streets, shabby businesses, and derelict homes as well as a life of constant danger for the officers. One of the officers shoots videos of the passing scenery from the patrol car, giving much of the film a wavery feel to match the actions on the dangerous streets. The musical score of the film is loud, tension building, and pulsating.
The dialogue, from both the police and the criminals, is raw and fully profane. The police in this movie are honest, dedicated to their calling, and willing to assume the frightening risks they take every day. They are tough individuals, both the men and the women, and not saints. Particularly as the violent cartel figures come to prominence towards the end, the movie is effective as an action drama. The stronger theme of the movie, however, lies in its development of the friendship between the two major characters. During a time when the services and characters of the police are not always honored, this movie offers a portrayal of the grittily heroic qualities of the police and their work.
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