With "Training Day" and "Dark Blue" to his credit, screenwriter/director/producer David Ayer has staked his claim on gritty Los Angeles Police Department procedurals. This time, the gimmick is faux found footage.
Mucho macho, ex-Marine Officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) always carries a handheld HD camera and has a microphone rigged into his uniform. He's taking pre-law classes and -- for his art elective -- he's planning to make a surreptitious documentary about his life of law enforcement in the South Central precinct, melodramatically emphasizing that "beyond my badge is a heart like yours." At his side is his loyal Mexican-American partner, Officer Mike "Z" Zavala (Michael Pena). Their arrogant attitude on returning from leave after grabbing headlines for killing two "perps" in-the-line-of-duty draws resentment from a pair of no-nonsense female cops -- Orozco (America Ferrera) and Davis (Cody Horn) -- and veteran Van Hauser (David Harbour). But obstinate Taylor and Zavala don't care about them -- or following directives like, "Try not to kill anyone by the end of the week." Episodic in structure, David Ayer and "shaky-cam" cinematographer Roman Vasyanov have contrived an insular, intricate character study of two men whose lives have become not only intertwined but also interdependent, as shown by their interaction within their squad car as they cruise around, gulping Red Bull as they deal with various domestic disputes and dispatch urban foul-mouthed hoodlums. Goofing off, Taylor and Zavala banter and tease each other mercilessly, even when they're hanging out with their respective female friends, like Zavala's pregnant wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez) and Taylor's current "badge bunny" Janet (Anna Kendrick), who
has a graduate degree in "food hydraulics," whatever that means. Eventually, following an escalating trail of drugs, guns and money leads them into a climactic encounter with street gangs and a rising Mexican cartel.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "End of Watch' is an insightful, intense 7, emphasizing not only the importance of brotherhood and teamwork but also the cinematic chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Pena.