The buddy-cop genre gets a reboot, with the ferocious duo of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.
Set in the wearily familiar territory of South-Central L.A., End of Watch is a police-camera-action style movie, following the beat of two loveable police officers; Brian and Mike (Gyllenhaal and Peña respectively). The partners enjoy a relationship of affectionate ridiculing in between their policing, which can involve anything from harassing the local thugs, to being shot at by AK-47s.
The pair find themselves caught up with bigger fish when they stumble upon the misdeeds of a Mexican criminal syndicate operating in the area, which leads to a hit being placed upon the cop duo’s heads.
End of Watch is a powerful and evocative film, mostly for the heart which is shown through the two cops. The film sets its mission statement out at the beginning by having Gyllenhaal provide an over voice stating that cops are essentially human; they bleed, they get hurt, and this theme is continued throughout. Brian and Mike are two heroes in blue, displaying various acts of valiant behaviour (like pulling kids from a burning building), but who also suffer the same vices as us, such as pride, envy etc.
Gender roles are evaluated during the movie, with Mike and Brian displaying typically “feminine” attributes, like crying and being emotional with their spouses. Whilst a female member of the Mexican gang acts psychotically aggressive, even towards other women, and in particular towards the authorities. This reversal of the archetypal “Macho Cop” is a welcome contemporary take on the genre, and serves to make End of Watch even more enjoyable.
The film is from the makers of Training Day, and has a similar urban grittiness to it which makes for compelling viewing, and the depiction of criminals and cops has the same realism which made the former film so popular. Where End of Watch pales in comparison to Training Day, is the storyline. Whilst the two characters of Mike and Brian are extremely likable, leading innocent lives and enjoying a robust brotherly bond with each other, the conflict is mostly from an unseen presence, a small group of street thugs who rarely come into contact with our heroes. This leave the plot a little unfulfilling, and the silver-lining ending will leave a large proportion of viewers unsatisfied.
That being said, End of Watch is a very enjoyable film simply due to Gyllenhaal and Peña, whose comedic presence makes the film relatable and funny, drawing us into the soft-natured compassion which these guys have for each other. Their jokes and insults are equally balanced with emotion and decency, allowing for a modern take on the cop genre which sets it apart from previous outings with similar compositions.