“End of Watch” gets a lot of mileage out of the charisma of its stars, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. These two guys have so much chemistry that just watching them drive around the streets of L.A., engaging in the occasional action sequence, is enough to make this film moderately entertaining. Just don’t expect the story to really go anywhere.
Officers Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Pena) are as close as brothers, and they patrol the L.A. streets like a couple of true heroes until the evil of the Mexican cartels catches up to them. That’s all there is to the plot. Taylor and Zavala aren’t corrupt, and they don’t discover corruption. They don’t really solve any big mysteries. They just make a series of good busts, through luck and good police work, and a drug/human trafficking cartel eventually puts out a hit on them. My beef with the film is that there really isn’t any character arc. These officers are really good guys who do a good job, which is nice for them, but it doesn’t make for much of a story. They aren’t conflicted, and without conflict in a story, what do you have?
In the case of “End of Watch,” you have a reasonably good action flick. The guys engage in several intense chases and shootouts, which are realistically filmed, partly with point-of-view cameras. One gets the feeling that the portrayals of police work in general are pretty realistic. The film really is pretty tautly directed by David Ayer, (who wrote the superior, in my opinion, “Training Day.”) Combined with the excellent cast, it makes for entertaining viewing even if the story is lacking. I’m still tempted to complain that the movie is simplistically gung-ho, and that the Gyllenhaal/Anna Kendrick sex scene is so “Top Gun” that I could practically hear the song “Take My Breath Away” in the background. But what the hell? If you are in the mood for something action-packed and un-complicated, you could do worse than this.
3 stars out of 5