Totally uncensored, this movie pulls no punches as we are shown the daily routine of two young hot shot police rookies patrolling the streets of the most dangerous neighborhoods in South Central L.A.’s gang lands. Not since the movie Colors, with Sean Penn and Robert Duvall 24 years ago, have we seen a film that depicts the shocking violence witnessed daily by regular LAPD cops as they battle gang warfare, drug cartels and inter-departmental politics.
Shot completely from the perspective of police video cam footage, End of Watch is well suited to this style of film-making as we are all familiar with the reality TV shows that feature police dash cam footage of high speed car chases and shootouts between cops and criminals. The action is shot on the run in first person view through the back alleys and streets of the hood and edited together from multiple cameras. Visually, it’s almost like a real life version of the video game Grand Theft Auto.
Filmmakers are getting wise and savvy to the idea of using small easy to conceal digital video camcorders as a way of adding a much more compelling and realistic touch to the story they’re telling. End of Watch uses the same visual technique used in Cloverfield (2008) to tell a much more immersive version of the movie Colors (1988), giving this film a more intimate and uninhibited view of the on-the-ground reality of law enforcement. It makes for a very unique and powerful experience but beware, this film is quite graphic and can be disturbing at times.
What makes End of Watch even more engaging and drives the story, is how it delves into the private lives and issues facing police partners and their families. The performances by Jake Gyllenhaal, recently seen in Source Code (2011), and Michael Peña, who was excellent in Battle: Los Angeles (2011), are absolutely convincing and spot on as the rookie partners just bursting at the seams with heroic energy. Their close bond and chemistry is what hooks us into these characters who have a playful camaraderie and passion for getting into trouble. With every call they receive we get the sense that they are walking into a deadly situation.
Director David Ayer, who started out as a script doctor, grew up in South Central L.A. and knows this territory intimately. He was the screen writer on Training Day (2001) with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke and in this film it’s evident that he put a lot of effort into giving the movie a feeling of complete authenticity.
The subject matter and the way it’s filmed may not appeal to everyone but I was pulled in by its energy and realism, not to mention the wonderful performances. It’s a surprisingly powerful film that’s well worth seeing.