The cop genre can be a little tired but few have explored it as thoroughly as David Ayer. Ayer wrote the modern crooked cop movie Training Day with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke and he's written and directed a handful of other cop dramas based in South Central Los Angeles. Ayer's latest End of Watch has some of the same tropes at his previous movies — crookedness in the force the bond between two partners the push and pull between family and career — but our protagonists' biggest test is the street itself not each other.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña are partners and best friends who sling racist insults at each other as often as they pledge their loyalty. As Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Peña) they are instantly likeable; they're goofy foul-mouthed brothers who are on the beat in South Central LA. They're definitely not always above board and they're a little smug about a recent bust; they want to find another big catch but when they do it lands them in the middle of a turf war and something way bigger than they could have anticipated. It's ugly it's graphic and it is in some ways a bit salacious in its portrayal of the violence most of us merely read about in the papers.
The conceit that Ayer uses to bring the viewer in close is that Brian is filming their work for a filmmaking class he's taking. Besides the dubious legality there are plenty of times when it's impossible for Brian to be filming so Ayers only uses this device when it's most convenient. At other times the camera moves to a typical third-person POV or even as if we were looking at footage from the in-car camera of a police chase. The most unbelievable aspect of the handheld camera is when the gangsters they're after are filming themselves at parties or on drive-bys. While it's interesting and effective insofar as it brings us up right into the action it's just not logical. At one point Ayer even uses night vision for a suddenly and weirdly introduced enemy. On one hand the use of Brian's footage (and how much it ticks off his fellow cops) is quite effective but on the other it's simply illogical. We're supposed to believe that this is indicative of Brian's goals his desire to grow past the life of an officer on the beat and start a family and all that but at the same time there's not much backing that idea up. Although the family angle comes in later it doesn't seem likely that Brian will give up life with his partner without a big push in another direction.
Ayer deftly switches between the violence of the job and the cops' intimate conversations in their car their regular off-duty lives and the bravado among officers jockeying for position on the force. The type of events Brian and Mike encounter can be stomach-turning; even the cops turn away before the camera offers the audience a look at what they've encountered. It's shocking at times and graphic in a way that's different than a horror movie or a shoot-'em-up like The Expendables 2. It sticks with you after the credits have rolled.
End of Watch also grabs you emotionally although sometimes it is a bit too on the nose. There are more than enough scenes where characters get drunk and mournful about the lifespan or lifestyle of a cop. Brian who is a bit of a womanizer finally meets a woman he can't believe would go for a cop Janet (Anna Kendrick). Kendrick isn't given a lot to do but when she's onscreen she brings some levity to this grim business. Mike's wife Gabby (Natalie Martinez) also has quite a few zingers although her screen time is even less than Kendrick's.
There aren't many other notable female characters. It's great to see America Ferrera play against her Traveling Pants type as a police officer who comes from the neighborhood and knows the people she's up against. Although the butch lesbian cop is played-out Ferrera does a good job bringing Orozco to life. There's also a hint that she was once romantically involved with the female leader of the Latin gang that's taking over South Central. The various gang members and other people the cops meet on their beat are fairly flat too; they're just the bogeymen and women who haunt cops on the streets and in their nightmares. There are some references about a street code and the changing gangs of South Central but it's more of a plot device than anything else.
In the end though this isn't a sociological study; this is a portrait of a friendship. End of Watch has a lot to offer for fans of the genre especially if they've got their Kleenex at the ready.
Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) is a diamond-drenched pampered pooch who lives the high life in Beverly Hills. Beloved by her owner Aunt Viv (Jamie Lee Curtis) and adored by the landscaper’s Chihuahua Papi (George Lopez) she is left with a babysitter niece Rachel (Piper Perabo) when Viv takes off on vacation. Rachel impulsively departs on a last-minute weekend romp to Mexico with Chloe who not only gets lost south of the border but ends up in some very bad company. Saved from certain death in a dog fight she hooks up with a street-savvy German Shepherd (Andy Garcia) harboring a dark secret from his past life as a police dog. Along the way her diamond ID collar is swiped by a conniving rat (Cheech Marin) and his accomplice a very fidgety Iguana (Paul Rodriguez) leading to major chaos as all of them are pursued by the vicious El Diablo (Edward James Olmos) a Doberman out for revenge and one very disoriented Chihuahua. Will Rachel and Papi be able to find her in time before clueless Aunt Viv’s return? That’s the burning question. Basically a talking dog movie with a heavy Spanish accent Beverly Hills Chihuahua doesn’t exactly shy from stereotyped Mexicans but since this is a canine Babe it manages to get away with just about anything simply because these pooches are just so darned cute. The voice cast which features such Latino stars as George Lopez Edward James Olmos Paul Rodriguez Cheech Marin and Andy Garcia is perfectly cast lending a lot of fun to the proceedings especially Lopez as the lovably loyal Papi and Marin as a jewel-thief rat. Barrymore is also ideal as the ultra-rich and spoiled Chloe who is the equivalent of a canine Paris Hilton. The human actors are basically wallpaper with Curtis given little dimension in her relatively brief screen time and Perabo spending most of the film searching for the pup she carelessly misplaced. Manolo Cardona does nicely as the family gardener who helps out in the search. But it’s the remarkable real dog stars that steal this show. You have to wonder how their trainers led by Birds And Animals Unlimited’s Mike Alexander pulled some of this stuff off. These animals are more three-dimensional than most real thesps we’ve seen lately and actually do seem to be mouthing their lines (including some very clever dialogue). The old show-business adage says to never work with kids or animals--they take center stage everytime. In this case director Raja Gosnell and the group of talented trainers behind the cameras have proven the saying absolutely right. Dominating the breezy 86-minute time the bulk of the movie is devoted to stars of the four-legged variety and Gosnell makes it look easy with inventive camera angles giving us the POV of all the various dog stars who seem to be taking on the distinct personalities of the “characters” they are playing particularly the soulful down-and-out ex-police dog Garcia voices. You really do wonder what this dog’s deep dark secret is and the relationship forged between him and Chloe is genuinely real. It’s a tribute to Gosnell’s talents and the entire behind-the-scenes team that Beverly Hills Chihuahua turns out to be the family delight it is.
Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) has one day and one day only to prove himself to his new partner Alonzo Harris (Denzel Washington) a 13-year vet of the LAPD narcotics division. Harris' years of hardcore experience on Los Angeles' meanest streets though have turned him into the same sort of criminal he's supposed to be putting away. At first it seems Harris intends to teach Hoyt his own brand of justice: that in order to catch the big fish sometimes officers must throw the smaller ones back. But as the hours slip away Hoyt learns just how bad his badass partner really is--Harris starts out as a taunting joker who just wants to give Hoyt a hard time but by nightfall he's turned into a full-blown monster bent on saving his own skin no matter what.
This two-man show is really a one-man show. It's Washington's game all the way as he bursts the almost priestly bubble of do-goodness that has surrounded him like a halo for most of his career with a sudden murderous burst of gunfire. In Day he is larger than life; clad in black leather and huge jewelry he towers both physically and psychologically over a scrawny goateed Hawke (looking like he just walked off the Reality Bites set) who tries valiantly to keep up with his Oscar-winning co-star. It's not that a perfectly wet-behind-the-ears Hawke doesn't adequately carry off the acting required for the situation he's in but really we're supposed to believe he hold his own in a fistfight-turned-deathmatch against guys more than twice his size? For his part Washington chews the scenery like it was his last meal as Alonzo goes from bad to worse but he sure makes it look fun.
Director Antoine Fuqua (Bait) used to direct music videos for artists like Coolio and it shows. Love the cool camera angles the warped POV shots the primary colors and raw soundtrack. And Fuqua's not afraid to show the L.A. streets at their worst. The first two-thirds are masterful work in character study as the line between good and evil becomes increasingly blurred. But by the final third the plot disintegrates getting hacky and waaayy contrived especially the "Hey! It just so happens..." coinky-dinks and a laughable ending that falls flat as a pancake and panders to an urban audience almost to the point of patronization. Most of this movie is so over-the-top it would be unwatchable were it not for its charismatic lead.
Bullets fly when Cincinnati police officers attempt to break up a late-night house party. Fort Smith, Ark., police pursue a gang of suspected armed jewel thieves across state lines, and things go from bad to worse when a home invasion call is followed by a shooting call just a block away.
Episode 2. Episode 5
(AIR DATE 04/17/2011)
A Cincinnati crowd goes into riot mode when one of their own is gunned down in the middle of the street. Arkansas cops responding to a breaking and entering happen upon a drug bust, and a purported stabbing victim isn't a victim at all when police think the superficial wound is self-inflicted.
Episode 3. Episode 3
(AIR DATE 04/24/2011)
The stakes are at an all-time high in Cincinnati when a suspect wrestles away a female officer's TASER X26 and turns it on her. The Ft. Smith SWAT team takes aim at a neighborhood drug house but quickly finds themselves in a heart-pounding predicament. A back-alley car chase enters the danger zone when officers see evidence that the perp is armed to the teeth
Episode 4. Episode 2
(AIR DATE 04/24/2011)
Feel the adrenaline rush when Cincinnati's finest engage in a high-speed pursuit of a teenage car thief suspect, an Arkansas man, apparently drunk leads cops on a foot chase through a gang of snarling pit bulls, and a suspected drug addict comes back from the brink of death to give his arresting officers a piece of his mind.
Episode 5. Episode 6
(AIR DATE 05/01/2011)
Cincinnati police officers chase down a pair of armed robbery suspects. Sparks fly when a domestic dispute turns ugly, and it's back to school for a troubled truant when Arkansas police get their hands on him.
Episode 6. Episode 7
(AIR DATE 05/01/2011)
Fort Smith, Ark., cops break up a heavily armed gang fight. A group of bumbling would-be car thieves bail on a stolen vehicle, but not before leaving a cache of weapons behind. A college town traffic stop takes a turn for the bizarre when the school's mascot decides to join the party.
Episode 7. Episode 11
(AIR DATE 06/19/2011)
A Chattanooga drug dealer with a unique escape plan gets tased into submission, a female officer navigates Cincinnati's back alleys to hunt down a possible armed and dangerous suspect, and things get rowdy when the boys in blue show up on the doorstep of a belligerent man accused of domestic violence.
Episode 8. Episode 8
(AIR DATE 06/19/2011)
A foot chase ultimately uncovers a stolen vehicle loaded with weapons, but there's plenty more than meets the eye when cops respond to a reported stabbing, and an investigation of an alleged drug den turns up a surprise 'suspect.'
Episode 9. Episode 12
(AIR DATE 06/26/2011)
Police investigating a shooting/cockfighting ring come upon a smoking gun; A drunk driver slips the cops but it isn't long before he's caught, and a taco truck shooting leads police to a suspect with a hefty stash.
Episode 10. Episode 10
(AIR DATE 06/26/2011)
On a wild and crazy interstate chase, cops stop a suspected DUI, only to find out he's the victim of a brick smash to the face, and a fast and furious armed robber wanted on 29 felony warrants gets run off the road by Chattanooga's finest.
Episode 11. Episode 9
(AIR DATE 07/03/2011)
A suspected drug pusher leads cops on a reckless, high-speed chase through the streets of Chattanooga, a senior busted for boozing in public is given one last shot to redeem himself, and a bullet-ridden windshield leads police to the doorstep of a reputed gang member.
Episode 12. Episode 112
(AIR DATE 07/10/2011)
A residential neighborhood is disrupted by a high speed chase that ends up with a bang. Chattanooga's police force have a challenge on their hands as they try to break up an unruly crowd. While searching for a shooting suspect, the team finds a stockpile of sex materials, drugs and weapons.
Episode 13. Episode 113
(AIR DATE 07/10/2011)
A man accused of assaulting a relative barricades himself inside his home before firing on police, a group of gangbangers in a stolen vehicle break the record for laws broken in a single stop, and the victim of a home invasion finds himself in cuffs after carelessly leaving his stash of drugs in plain view.