The one thing worse than a movie that’s so totally rah-rah about its subject is to put the audience in a position to care about its subject and then to, rather ruthlessly, kill its subject. Or in the case of End of Watch, half its subjects.
It’s hard to imagine why writer/director David Ayer changed his modus operandi.
His previous films include Street Kings, Training Day and Dark Blue, movies in which cops have many dimensions, from straight-up good guys to baddies on the take, to all shades of gray in between.
There are no such shadings here and the movie suffers for it. Ayer deposits the protagonists, uniformed LAPD cops (Jake Gyllenhall and Michael Peña), into the daily grind of shit we’ve seen in other movies that take place in south central Los Angeles. Audiences will feel for these two, but who wouldn’t?
The heartless, perhaps. It’s only afterward that we realize we’ve been manipulated: These guys will die to protect us, and they deserve our respect. It’s a drag when movies feel like church. It’s a drag that Gyllenhall’s character’s documentary project, the catalyst for the film, is dropped completely.
At least he’s good. Peña is excellent.
Regal Santa Fe Stadium 14, R, 109 min.