Reviewed by: Curtis McParland
risks and difficulties of being policemen, and the price they and their families are forced to pay
illegal drug use
ethics of pushing legal boundaries in police work
Cody Horn … Officer Davis
Anna Kendrick … Janet
Jake Gyllenhaal … Officer Taylor
America Ferrera … Officer Orozco
Michael Peña … Officer Zavala
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|Distributor||Open Road Films|
“Every moment of your life they stand watch”
“God loves cops.” These are the words of Officer Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) as he and his partner Officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) patrol the streets of Los Angeles. They chase down thugs, take gunmen down, and have an occasional drug bust. “We’re cops. Everybody wants to kill us,” says Officer Taylor. But his words don’t fit too well when they get involved in a large drug cartel case. The only ones who want officers Taylor and Zavala killed, at this point, are one of LA’s biggest drug cartel groups.
“End of Watch” is a film that could be compared to episodes of the show “COPS.” But I personally didn’t see it like that at all. The film has a unique blend of single-handed point of view shots, as well as a smooth flow of Steadicam® shots. Therefore, it still feels like a film, but also gives the audience a look at the officers’ point of view during their daily duties. All of that aside, the film is very profane and violent. The content listing is below, and some material is not be suitable for children, as this film does contain graphic violence. Discretion is advised.
Sexual Content: There is a scene between a clothed, unwed couple, where they make out passionately on a bed. We see them in bed the next morning implying sex (no nudity). We also see other couples kiss (including married couples). There is a scene with the drug cartel throwing a loud party with numerous scantily clad women and one woman dancing suggestively in a bikini. In the same scene, two women kiss. There are also two scenes with fairly explicit sexual dialog, and there are also plenty of vulgar sex references scattered throughout the film, which include crude terms for male and female anatomy. The officers make a discovery that possibly led to human trafficking.
Crude and Profane Language: The MPA wasn’t kidding when they tagged this film for “pervasive language”. Instead of missing half of the movie by constantly tallying language, I decided to make estimates, instead. There are at least 300+ f-words in this film (sometimes used in a sexual context), nearly 100 s-words, and handfuls of milder profanities and obscenities. God’s name is misused nearly a dozen times (a few times paired with d_mn) and Jesus’ name is abused nearly a half a dozen times (linked with the f-word at least once). There are also a couple of racial slurs made by gang members.
Violence: The film is filled with shootouts and fistfights, and there is plenty of bloodshed. However, not every scene is entirely graphic. In one scene, the officers discover that a man has tied up children and placed them in a closet (not graphically violent, but still disturbing). There is also a scene with a house fire (not graphic, but very intense). A woman is beaten (impact not seen, but heard, and we see the man beating her from behind). We see her bloodied face. In another scene, we can hear someone being beaten from the outside of a house. Later on in the film, we a see an officer with a knife handle protruding from his eye socket (very graphic). The officers also make a very disturbing discovery of dismembered body parts bagged up and scattered throughout a room of a house (the audience sees everything, from blood to heads to limbs, and it’s extremely graphic). In one big shootout scene, characters are shot in the head, chest, and back, and blood is sprayed everywhere.
Drugs and Alcohol: We see gang members smoking marijuana. There are also plenty of references to drugs and stashes of drugs get screen time, as well. There is also some drinking at parties and a wedding.
Other Negative Elements: Traditional marriage gets slightly mocked by one officer (even though he’s married), and there is mention of it being “old fashioned”. However, there is a wedding in the film. There is disrespect shown towards cops, and a wife accuses her husband of saving people he doesn’t even know, when they are expecting a child.
Positive Elements: There is plenty of courage and self-sacrifice displayed in this movie, and, ultimately, this is what this film is all about. Officer Zavala says to his partner (Taylor) that he would take a bullet for him and would even take care of Taylor’s family if anything ever happened to him. The two are like brothers, and it is funny to see some of the gags they pull on each other or other fellow officers. Even in the midst of the most dangerous moments, they find time to smile and laugh. There is also a traditional wedding in the film, and when Officer Taylor tells his partner that he wants to get married and have children one day, he says that if he has a daughter, she will never date anyone (said jokingly). I took this as a message of him wanting to be a loving, protective father. There are moments of forgiveness, as well.
Although there are a lot of great messages on display in “End of Watch,” it’s a film filled with strong and at times graphic violence, some sexual content and very strong language. This film doesn’t refrain from the gritty details of a LA cop’s daily life, and that may really be appreciated by some viewers. It shows that violence isn’t fun and games, and that subjects such as drug dealing, human trafficking, and gang violence are not to be tolerated in this nation. Sometimes, subjects like these need to be portrayed on screen so viewers can understand what a lot of policemen do in their daily lives.
From a filmmaking perspective, it is a well made film with great acting, direction, and writing (despite the multiple uses of the f- and s-words, which could have been cut down, in my opinion). Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña made their characters come to life, and director David Ayer made the entire story feel very realistic. On the downside, the camera Gyllenhaal’s character holds during select scenes gets very shaky at times, which can make viewers (including myself) a bit dizzy. I felt the first person/handheld camera scenes could have been laid out better with the Steadicam® shots. Other than some minor cinematography and writing issues, this is a great film from a filmmaking point of view.
Proverbs 21:15 (ESV) says that “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers”. Justice is displayed in this film, and we see what great terror it brings to the gangs, thieves, and cartels. The men have faith and hope that justice will be served. They do what they can to keep each other and their families safe. “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). They are like brothers to each other, and they care for one another. Brotherly love is on display in this film from start to finish.
But does this mean I recommend this film? No, it certainly doesn’t. With strong language used nearly every thirty seconds, moments of sexual material, and graphic violence, I can’t recommend this film to anyone. However, this film may need to be viewed by some, just so they can understand the perils our police men and women face each and every day. Scripture warns us that “it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person” (Matthew 15:11). Followers of Christ need to be cautious about their choices of entertainment. Psalm 101:3 says, “I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.”
When I review films, I always try to pull something good out of even the worst of movies, and, in most cases, I’m successful. Walking into “End of Watch,” I expected a gritty, found footage action film—nothing more, nothing less. When I walked out, I felt emotionally challenged and moved. We need to respect our police officers, and this film made me grow a deeper appreciation for them and the dangers that they face twenty-four hours per day/seven days per week. When they wake up in the morning, they don’t know if their head will reach that same pillow the same night. They don’t know if they will be returning home safe to their loved ones. It’s a dangerous world out there, and these brave men and women are taking the stand to protect us on the streets…each and every day.
“The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Proverbs 28:1).
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.