“The friend is the man who knows all about you, and still likes you” – Elbert Hubbard.
Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain) and his partner Miguel Zavala (Michael Pena, Crash) known to Brian as “Z”, patrol the lethal streets of Southern L.A. together, rife with drug crime and murder. It’s a neighbourhood we’re all too familiar with – poverty, graffiti, car chases, gun-downs and everything featured in the Six-O’Clock news – all in one ‘hood.
All of this is lightened with the friendship (I feel to say ‘bromance’ here, a term used to define a “close, non-sexual relationship between two men” as cited by the Oxford Dictionary) between these two leads. The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Pena is outstanding precisely because it’s so natural; the two seem to have been friends for years and it feels as though a camera truly has just materialised and ‘just-so-happened’ to capture these two officers at work.
“White people get hung up on this fucking soulmate bullshit. Just hook up with a chick that can cook and wants kids!”
End of Watch is an industry term meaning the end of police supervision – a shift – or, ominously, the end of one’s police career. I believe End of Watch alludes to Brian and Z watching and guarding each other. The film itself is basically one big middle finger to this concept:
“One can be a brother only in something. Where there is no tie that binds men, men are not united but merely lined up” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Precisely because of their police duties together – and that they put their lives on the line daily for ordinary citizens and importantly, for each other – automatically negates Saint-Exupery’s statement. In fact, issues of race and culture are underplayed in the film which paradoxically means that every time it is mentioned, it plays in the audiences’ mind. The entire 1 hour and 45 minutes is a dedication to the services and bravery of the police force; the opening monologue is testament to this. Reminding the audience constantly of the danger ordinary men and women, flesh and blood with thoughts and feelings experience daily, it lingers in every scene and every dialogue.
“The language of friendship is not words but meanings” – Henry David Thoreau
Between these two men, friends, “brothers”, the danger cannot be more heartfelt. The experience of being in a potentially perilous situation with the person in the world closest to you is nightmarish, to say the least. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said:
“A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.”
The growth of these two men is seen not only with their bonding on the job – laughing about each other’s sex lives, daydreaming about children and their lives in years to come – it of course touches every part of their lives. One great aspect of End of Watch is the fast-paced nature of not just the action, but of the passing of time between Brian and Z’s lives. Within a few minutes, the audience understands that one of these officers is expecting a baby, the other getting married, etc. What’s special about the cruising of time here, for me, is how it is reluctant to be sentimental. There is barely anything to make you feel cushy or smitten with End of Watch, and it’s not just because our two protagonists are men. Of course, the rough lives they live are accentuated with their manliness and urban bravado but again, it’s all offset with their love for each other.
“There was brotherhood between people who had fed from the same breast, a kinship that even time could not break ” ― Khaled Hosseini.
- Spot-on amount of violence
- The simple story of a love between two men was tender but manly. A real man knows how to love another man, and End of Watch shows just how.
- The romantic connection between Janet (Anna Kendrick) and Brian was equally sweet
- Concept of family being more than blood ties is strong throughout the film; see tiny interactions between the wife of Z (Natalie Martinez) and Janet.
- The hand-held camera sometimes featured with Brian adds a visceral and frightening element, putting us truly in the heart of dangerous moments.
- American Ferrera (Ugly Betty) and partner Cody Horn (Magic Mike) hold up very well on the female front. Great to see that women in the film were more than wives.
- One actor who plays villainous thug ‘Big Evil’ spews out the “F” fairy every second word he’s capable of shouting. It was so obvious that it became painfully stupid.
A naturally heart-warming, modern but paradoxically timeless story of two men who would, and do, anything necessary to care for and protect one another. Balance this affection with the realistic blood and guts in the surroundings of gang warfare, and you’ve got a kind of I Love You Man but with guns, sirens and a wonderful amount of blood. It’s definitely refreshing to see a film that’s unafraid to show a pair of heterosexual men love each other with the same passion as they do their wives.
“You know I love you, man?”
“I love you too, bro.”
End of Watch is a gritty but beautiful tale (the film opens with a caption reading, “Once upon a time in South Central…”) about what it means to be a friend in the face of danger, true sacrifice and how to bust a party full of law-breaking clichéd Mexicans.
“Because brothers don’t let each other wander in the dark alone.” ― Jolene Perry