After nearly a month of lackluster offerings, leave it to the writer of Training Day to spice up theaters with the cop thriller End of Watch, a gritty, entertaining and emotional action-drama that fires on all cylinders.
David Ayer writes and directs the movie, which stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as Los Angeles police officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, who go about their lives chasing criminals, fighting gangbangers and investigating crimes in South Central. And marrying women and having kids. After the two men stumble across evidence that Mexican drug cartels have moved into the city, however, they find themselves in the crosshairs.
Shot in handheld "lost footage" style, End of Watch has an in-your-face, down-to-earth and grit-in-the-teeth style that is at times distracting, sometimes obnoxious, but ultimately effective. Ayer's approach is inconsistent - often the camera angles defy the handheld look - but by the time movie ends, it doesn't matter.
End of Watch is a fun, well made movie that alternates between goofy but sincere exchanges between the two leads and tense bursts of suspense as they do their jobs. Gyllenhaal and Peña have great chemistry together and throughout the course of the film establish how much they care about each other. When the film reaches its climax, Ayer has the audience wrapped around his finger.
The ending is simply powerful.
End of Watch would have been better had Ayer abandoned the "found footage" technique, but his decision does not degrade the movie as much as one would suspect. Thanks to great characters, excellent acting and an entertaining plot, End of Watch is the most entertaining movie to hit theaters in a long time.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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