Writer-director David Ayer's “End of Watch” is even tougher and more realistically brutal than “Training Day,” his 2001 screenplay about a thoroughly dirty narcotics cop working the meanest streets in Los Angeles. This time Ayer puts the viewer in a vivid ride-along with two uniformed L.A. officers who are tasked with “pushing a black-and-white” (a police cruiser) through the city's most violent and gang-infested areas, where drive-by shootings seem to run on a regular schedule.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena are utterly convincing as Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, two young, brave and very capable cops with plenty of street savvy and a tight friendship that keeps them covering each other's backs like the closest of brothers, ensuring that they both go home in one piece at the “end of watch.”
They're cocky — justifiably so, because they're good at what they do — and they skirt the rules at times, just enough to raise the ire of their superiors and some of their less talented colleagues. But they always outgun any gangbangers bold enough to brace them and they make plenty of solid busts, before Zavala goes home to his loving, pregnant wife (Natalie Martinez) and kids and Taylor goes home to his loving girlfriend (Anna Kendrick).
Taylor has a tendency to tote a camera, recording their harrowing exploits — to the chagrin of fellow cops and bad guys alike — giving the film a documentary look as the viewer sees it all from the point of view of the officers, gang members (who also seem to have a lot of cameras, not just of the cellphone type), surveillance and dashboard cams, which, thanks to skilled cinematographer Roman Vasyanov, brings a thrillingly immersive effect to the proceedings, especially during the chaotic and bloody action sequences.