Movie Review: End of Watch

Review: End of Watch

A profound insight into the relationship of law and society

By Mark HadleyWednesday 31 Oct 2012MoviesReading Time: 3 minutes

Mark Hadley reviews the hard-hitting new action drama, 'End of Watch'.

RELEASE DATE: November 1

I rarely make this sort of prediction but if End Of Watch doesn’t figure prominently in 2013’s line up for Best Film it will be because of lack of marketing dollars, not quality. This is a film worth watching.

End Of Watch comes from the pen of David Ayer who also wrote Training Day, the feature that delivered Denzel Washington his Best Actor award. His latest work looks likes a straightforward buddy movie on paper.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña play two LA police officers, Brian and Mike, who confiscate a haul of cash and firearms from a driver and inadvertently find themselves the crossing a notorious drug cartel. The more they dig around the more danger they face. Soon a contract is put out and the gangsters are closing in. It remains to be seen whether anyone will care enough to step in before the hit goes down.

But End Of Watch is one of those cases where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This film is a powerful and richly textured examination of the tribes that criss-cross California. The black gangs that dominated the drug trade a decade earlier are themselves under pressure from Latino immigrants moving in from Mexico. The police are seeking to dominate both, but this is not about law enforcement so much as loyalty. Gyllenhaal provides an opening narration that describes how his fellow officers see themselves:
“Although I am but one man, I have thousands of brothers and sisters who are the same as me. They will lay down their lives for me and I them. We stand watch together. The thin blue line protecting the prey from the predators, the good from the bad. We are the police.”
It sounds more than a little self-assured, but that’s what tribes deliver: the confidence to approach the unknown with the certainty of unwavering support. Even amongst the badges there’s a continued sense of tribalism. Detectives tell beat police to, “Put up some yellow tape and stay on the others side!” Federal investigators pass on warnings, but real information is something they keep to themselves. End Of Watch is all about knowing where you belong and who you can trust.
What Ayer brings to life is an examination of that loyalty through the prism of everyday life. Sure, we see Brian prepared to follow Mike into a burning building, and Mike ready to back Brian’s hunch in an isolated house. But we also get a sense of how the force has augmented, even replaced the family that provided earlier generations with their sense of purpose. At a birthday party Mike and Brian’s new girlfriend Janet reflect on the similarities between Mexican and Irish families and they nod in agreement: “You mess with one of us you’ve got all of us after you.”
Christianity could be seen as another tribe that gives its members the confidence to approach the unknown. However the strength of any loyalty lies in the knowledge of what your brother or sister will be prepared to give up for you. After a few drinks Brian and Mike’s sergeant tries to convey what a former partner meant to him with the words, “He took my bullet. He took my bullet. That’s what he was to me,” – and we get the sense that sacrifice is the cement that binds relationships and still impresses a cynical world. 
This, then, is the sentiment that we should forever place before our friends when they ask why we’re Christians. Not the self-centred, ‘It works,’ or even less, ‘I’ve never been happier,’ but ‘My brother died for me.’ Jesus’ death for you and me demands an answer. In 1882 Ralph Hudson penned a hymn that echoed the only appropriate response to that level of sacrifice:
Oh, Thou who died on Calvary,
To save my soul and make me free;
I’ll consecrate my life to Thee,
My Savior and my God!