Having supposedly grown up on the polluted streets of the Los Angeles suburbs he so frequently illustrates, David Ayer returns home once again to both embrace convention and flip it on its head. Playing like a police ride-along-cum-apt dramatization of an episode of “Gangland,” End of Watch follows officers Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Pena) as they get more than they bargained for after unknowingly butting heads with a local Mexican drug cartel, putting their lives in danger as well as setting into motion a ripple effect that’ll undoubtedly affect their loved ones.
Events escalate at a reasonable clip as the titular heroes express their undying devotion to one another as best friends and partners, transforming the production into something uncommonly humane for the genre, yet conformist in its cloying sensibilities that force one to care for the characters. Coming to terms with the film’s recognizable inability to garner said sympathy from viewers isn’t the hardest however, prompting one to simply sit back and enjoy the ride as speed bumps come at regular intervals to throw us for a proverbial loop.
As to be expected, Ayer explores both sides of the law with the unparalleled finesse we first witnessed throughout Training Day, employing a questionable hybridization of Officer Taylor’s handheld “project”-related footage and that of a typical film. You get a sense of what L.A.’s finest deal with on an everyday basis, slightly overexaggerated as the events may be, and the crisis that stares them dead in the face is far from implausible as an agreeably hard-hitting, moreover terrifying final act rolls around to completely shatter expectation.
Concluding on a high note, End of Watch is an authentic if technically erratic work that treads through familiar territory in a way not many others have. Sure, the police procedural aspects of it don’t vary ostensibly from what Ayer’s portrayed in the past, although his conviction in coupling serviceable characterization with the unflinching and utterly compelling is admirable. Certain aspects are laughably cliched as to be expected, but as a collective whole, you could certainly do worse than David Ayer’s latest.