Whether he’s an enthusiastic pharmaceutical salesman in “Love and Other Drugs,” or a troubled soldier in “Jarhead,” the presence of Jake Gyllenhaal on screen enveloped all those he worked with.
In “End of Watch,” Gyllenhaal has finally met someone with the acting finesse to match his own, scene for scene, in a beautiful movie touching base on a wide range of emotions.
Playing police officer Bryan Taylor, Gyllenhall is paired with Michael Peña’s character Mike Zavala. The film follows the two cops bringing their own brand of justice to the streets.
With the characters’ comical antics widespread throughout, Zavala and Taylor are pulled further into the drug scene of southern Los Angeles, which covers every aspect of their lives.
In what is his first major role, Peña successfully carries his half of what is meant to be camaraderie only two best friends could share. The charisma this pair shares is undeniable, bringing laughs as they chatter about their lives between what is an increasingly dark series of crimes.
Anna Kendrick plays a bubbly yet easily likeable girlfriend, hugging her roots from other films but accenting the fact that these men are in a life-changing job that has rippling effects across the board. Though her acting was impressive, it was disappointing that she didn’t step out of her shell, playing again another pixie love interest.
Opposite Peña is Natalie Martinez, a minor actor selling a major performance, as the endearing wife. America Ferrera also steps out of her “Ugly Betty” shoes to act the part of a street-smart cop who came from a gang background, selling the performance well. Amongst various actors, it is clear that the Los Angeles Police Department is truly a brotherhood.
It is clear from the beginning that the film chose to take a cinematographic angle similar to that of the Paranormal Activity series — a shaky, quick camera written off as being pinned to various characters’ chests.
This creates an incredibly realistic feel for the majority of the film, jumping between down-the-barrel views. It allows the viewer to get the nit-and-grit of the grapples but jumps to more traditional filming at times to permit a view not always accessible with this style of filming. This was the safest bet, preventing the queasy feeling some may get from that much movement in the camera but allowing a third-person view when necessary.
Written and directed by David Ayer, known for films such as “Training Day” and “The Fast and the Furious,” his experience with the cops-versus-robbers genre shines through.
The police jargon is believable, the criminals rightfully notorious and the dialogue between Peña and Gyllenhall is what you would anticipate best friends say to one another. Ayer’s background in this genre helped the film deliver on every emotional point, but it is apparent by the end that his sympathies lie with those police officers that sacrifice so much for the most meager of rewards.