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Mark Clark

Mark Clark

Mark Clark is the public information officer for a law enforcement agency in the southwest. He is also a photographer and contributor to POLICE Magazine.
Patrol

Is 'End of Watch' Just 'Training Day II?'

Thankfully the answer to that question is a resounding "no," even though it was written and directed by the writer of that disgusting 2001 portrait of corrupt LAPD detectives.

October 01, 2012  |  by - Also by this author

Photo courtesy of Open Road Films.
Photo courtesy of Open Road Films.

David Ayers' "End of Watch" is being acclaimed by cops nationwide as a great police movie, one that finally gets what being a cop is all about. But despite all that acclaim, I was skeptical about "End of Watch" because Ayers' most prominent previous credit was for "Training Day," the 2001 film about corrupt police detectives that scored Denzell Washington an Oscar for best actor.

As a matter of principle, I call "Training Day" the worst portrayal and betrayal of a police department by a major film studio. And as every single LAPD cop portrayed throughout its plot is corrupt, I take enormous pleasure in skewering Ayers' screenplay. Yet, I had to grudgingly give him points for his dialog. His cops spoke in the authentic rhythms of police work and the streets, and I remember thinking, you've got how cops speak down, now if you ever learn how we think, you might have something.

But make no mistake—I found "Training Day" reprehensible. Such was my aversion to the prospect of Ayers profiting by my patronage of "End of Watch" that I considered the possibility of purchasing tickets for another movie and sneaking into "End of Watch" instead. But given the generally favorable take that I had gotten from officers that this film was something decidedly different than "Training Day," I took a leap of faith and plopped down nine bucks for its matinee screening.

And as it turned out, "End of Watch" did not turn out to be "Training Day II."

Chronicling a period in the partnership of Newton patrol Officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavilla, the film's first glimpse of the two might lend one to think that they are nothing more than a couple of hard-charging cops that love to kick ass and take names. But the humanity of each man is brought to the fore soon enough and their teamwork together are such that they seemingly comprise a single organism.

If Jake Gyllenhaal's Taylor is its educated core, then Michael Pena's Zavilla is its heart and soul and the actors' chemistry together is the best since Redford and Newman did their thing on the other side of the law in "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." I, for one, will be extremely disappointed if either actor fails to receive an Oscar nod for their work (particularly Pena who somehow manages to steal the film without any visible effort).

The thespianship is matched by an androit mix on the film's technical end, with "End of Watch" cleverly intersplicing dash-and cop-cam footage as well as night vision optics with conventional film-making techniques to tell its story. That it does so without inducing epileptic seizures does not mean that the film lacks the capacity to leave you feeling uncomfortable.

Part of that discomfort comes from the suggestion that there are unseen forces working against our heroes (Just because Ayers has not put corruption within law enforcement front and center on this go-round doesn't mean he's abandoned the matter). What the ambient environment fails to achieve on that front - which is little; the film captures the sinister nature of contemporary Los Angeles more realistically than even "Colors" did a generation ago - the soundtrack more than makes up for, complementing the film's mood with songs that are no less foreshadowing than its title.

Is "End of Watch" perfect? No. Promiscuous use of creative license asserts itself on multiple fronts, including tactics, the officers' emotional response to situations, and its compacted timeline.

Some have also criticized the officers' attitude toward their sergeant as being unrealistic. But having known quite a few mid-20s "know-it-all" cops—and having been one myself—I can't fault Ayers’ script on this front. It might make the characters a little less likeable, but it also renders them all the more human and credible.

My critiques are, in the grand sum of things, nits. "End of Watch" is from start to finish undeniably entertaining, and on those occasions when it is on tactically and procedurally sound footing, it transcends any other patrol-oriented film I have ever seen. It also touches on emerging concerns within the law enforcement arena, such as the encroachment of Mexican cartels north of the border and the ubiquitous presence of videotaping on both sides of the legal fence.

If it seems that I have focused on the negative more than the good herein my reasons are two-fold.

First, if I can go back to "Training Day," my grievances against it weren't based upon about its technical issues or its performances. My gripes were about the image the film painted of the LAPD and the possible legacies it saddled on not only that department but other officers throughout the land. In short, I felt that Ayers' heart was in the wrong place when he wrote “Training Day,” and so I campaigned against it aggressively, for the seeming intentions of creators count a hell of a lot in my book.

And while I can still see no positive up tick to "Training Day," I can see quite a bit of good with "End of Watch," so much so that I would hope that cops would take their spouses—and older children, for that matter—to see this film and encourage others to do likewise.

At the same time I don't want cops coming back later and saying to me, "C'mon, man, when that cop drops his Sam Brown and fights that gang member mano-a-mano? What kind of BS is that...?"

So if I mention these things it is because I would like the better aspects of the film to come as a surprise to its viewers. The lower your expectations are—and mine were considerably low—the more you will enjoy the film.

In short, if David Ayers has not mastered how a cop thinks with "End of Watch," it's not been for lack of effort, and despite the thoughtfully provided emotional counter-weight at the end of "End of Watch," it's safe to say that there were damn few dry eyes in the house.

And when was the last time you could say that about a film where cops were the good guys?

Related:

'End of Watch' Based On LAPD Cop's Patrol Duty

End of Watch Podcast

End of Watch Trailer

Tags: Cops In Movies, LAPD, Thin Blue Line


Comments (9)

Displaying 1 - 9 of 9

Scott @ 10/1/2012 8:42 PM

I thought the movie was great. In fact I just got home from seeing it. I was told by several friends, who are no longer pushing a black and white sled like myself, it would invoke the desire to go back and do so. That rang true with me as well. As far as the taking off the badge and dropping the gunbelt being BS, I personally know a guy that did that. He whooped that loud mouthed jackass too. Smart thing to do? Depends on who you ask. He did get days off for it though.

I can't agree with you more about training day (lower case purposely due to lack of respect). That was such far fetched hollywood BS.

Dean Scoville @ 10/2/2012 12:06 PM

No reason to doubt the veracity of your story, Scott, but I will say that any cop who drops his gun and Sam Brown to fight some gang member is pretty dumb. I just wouldn't necessarily say it to his face :)

John M. Wills @ 10/3/2012 4:45 AM

Hoping to see the flick next week. I was on the fence until I read your review. Thanks.

Kevin @ 10/3/2012 4:57 AM

I saw the movie with my wife (who wanted to see Looper) and she was glad I convinced her to see it. At the end I sat quietly and watched the credits roll as my wife reached for a tissue. Every police officer no matter from a small town or big city, 1 year to 30 years in service, can relate. The same goes for the spouse. The relationship and banter between Taylor and Zavilla was authentic and believable. The end of the movie had a 'Blackhawk Down' feeling and we all know that lonely feeling as you wait for the cavalry to show up. My only gripe was at the very end- the small scale funeral scene. In reality it would have been attended by thousands of fellow officers from across the country. Too bad the director couldn't come up with a scene of all those in attendance. It would have conveyed the true cameraderie for a fallen brother.

goodblue @ 10/3/2012 9:26 AM

The taking off the badge and duty belt, well I have done it myself, actually right in a cell. I have seen others do it too. We have never had any takers though, all tough talk. The movie is great, especially depicting the down time and the silly senseless talk between partners.

Vixen63 @ 10/9/2012 7:27 AM

@Scott, thank you for your review on the movie. I haven't had a chance to see it yet but after reading your review I am going to make more of an effort. On another issue, the "Training Day" movie, unfortunately, was not that far fetched. I lived through the "Rampart Scandal."

rustysmith7 @ 10/24/2012 12:27 PM

Haven't seen it but appreciate the info. Will make time to see it soon.

Eric @ 10/24/2012 1:12 PM

I must join the crowd of voices that have seen officers drop their gun belts to settle an issue. I still think it's a dumb idea, but I can understand the desire to do so. As far as the rest of the movie, I think it showed the esprit de corps that I have come to expect from partners and squads that work well together. And I can also see the disdain that was shown towards their supervisor in a few squad rooms across the country. I can NOT, however, fathom the man-crush that was shown towards the Captain.

Dave Westgate @ 10/24/2012 3:50 PM

Dean, not sure why you're so crazy about the portrayal in Training Day. I'm LAPD and loved that movie. It's a movie - no one is saying that's truly how our department is.

Both movies were great, in my opinion.

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