Get dressed, drive to the nearest theater, and purchase tickets for “End of Watch,” right now.
It appears the majority of moviegoers did just that over the weekend, the new release faring well enough to tie for first place at the box office with “House at the End of the Street” at $13 million.
Though at first glance the revenue appears to be a disappointment, “End of Watch” found enough success to nearly double its production budget of $7 million, while simultaneously beating out the more heavily marketed “Dredd,” which only managed to rake in $6 million this weekend.
Directed by “Training Day” writer David Ayer, “End of Watch” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Brian Taylor and Michael Pena as Mike Zavala, two patrol officers who find themselves in a street war with the Mexican cartel after seizing drug money and weapons in a routine traffic stop.
As the officers further investigate, they collect more evidence of the cartel’s presence when discovering a human trafficking ring and a house full of corpses and narcotics.
When word reaches the cartel leader of the duo’s investigation, he puts out a hit on the officers, and though Taylor and Zavala are tipped off, the rumor of their impending death does little to stop them from continuing to clean up the streets and bring the cartel members to justice.
The film is successful for a number of reasons, particularly because of its realism in regards to the life of a street officer in the ever-dangerous territory of South Central Los Angeles, which is exactly where “End of Watch” was shot.
Gyllenhaal and Pena underwent five months of training for their roles, participating in 12-hour ride-alongs with members of the Los Angeles Police Department up to three times per week.
The training paid off. Not only do the two seem entirely comfortable in their roles as police officers, but that five-month span certainly allowed Pena and Gyllenhaal to get to know one another better, the result of which is a seamless on-screen relationship. Combine this with the quality performances of both actors, and it’s very easy to forget you’re watching fiction.
Also in the film’s favor is the fact it doesn’t need to entirely rely on gunfights and overblown action to remain suspenseful. Though there is certainly enough of that to satisfy, “End of Watch” also builds suspense by alternating between the dangerous occupation and the normal family lives of Taylor and Zavala.
We get to know these men on a personal level – we’re taken through the dating life of Taylor through his marriage, we see Zavala’s first child, and we see a bond between these two policemen that cannot be undone, despite the environment of hatred and violence in which they work.
“End of Watch” sticks to one of the golden rules of a good film in that it makes the audience care about the characters and root for their success. It does this well enough to provoke a variety of emotional reactions from beginning to end.
This is one of the best films to hit theaters all summer.