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End of Watch

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End of Watch
End of Watch Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Ayer
Produced by
Written byDavid Ayer
Music byDavid Sardy
CinematographyRoman Vasyanov
Edited byDody Dorn
Distributed byOpen Road Films
Release date
  • September 8, 2012 (2012-09-08) (TIFF)
  • September 21, 2012 (2012-09-21) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$7–15 million[2][3]
Box office$57.6 million[2]

End of Watch is a 2012 American action thriller film[4][5] written and directed by David Ayer. It stars Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña as Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, two Los Angeles Police Department officers who work in South Los Angeles. The film focuses on their day-to-day police work, their dealings with a certain group of gang members, their friendship with each other, and their personal relationships.

Ayer, who had written several police procedural films previously, wanted the film to focus more on the friendship between partners and honest police work rather than corruption. Gyllenhaal, Peña, and other cast members underwent an intensive training program to prepare for their roles as police officers. Filming took place in Los Angeles in August 2011 with a budget of $7 million.

End of Watch premiered on September 8, 2012, at the Toronto International Film Festival and was released in American theaters on September 21, grossing over $57 million at the box office. The film received a number of accolades, including two Independent Spirit Award nominations.


Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala are close friends and partners in the Newton Division of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) in South Central Los Angeles. Taylor, a US Marine veteran, is recording their police activities for a film project.

Upon responding to a public disturbance call, Tre, a Bloods gang member, yells racial insults at Zavala, who responds by accepting a one-on-one fist fight. Zavala beats and arrests him, but wins Tre's respect for not charging him with assault. Later that night, Tre and his fellow Bloods gang members are attacked by a group of Sureños in a drive-by shooting and one of Tre's friends is killed. The next day, the officers respond to a noise complaint at a house party full of Sureños, where Taylor and Zavala encounter gang members named Big Evil and LaLa.

Taylor and Zavala are awarded the Medal of Valor after rescuing three children from a house fire. Upon further investigating a house, they arrest a man who is also in possession of several ornate firearms, and is guarding a cell full of human trafficking victims. When ICE officers arrive, one officer informs the officers that the house is tied to the Sinaloa Cartel, and strongly urges them to "lay low" due to possible reprisals. Around this time, Taylor becomes engaged to his partner Janet and Zavala's wife Gabby gives birth to their first child.

One night, Taylor and Zavala respond to a call from their fellow officer, Sook, and find her partner Van Hauser with a knife through his eye. He leads them to Sook, who is being savagely beaten nearby. After arresting the culprit, the officers learn that Van Hauser is not returning to patrol and Sook is leaving the force. Taylor marries Janet, and at their wedding Zavala tells Taylor that, should anything happen to him, he will take care of Janet.

The next day, the officers perform a welfare check on an elderly woman. In her house, they discover drugs, dismembered corpses, and a message from the cartel. Unbeknownst to them, a cartel member has "green-lit" the officers, and the gangsters from the earlier drive-by begin following them. On patrol the officers encounter Tre who, out of respect for Zavala, warns them that the cartels plan to have them killed, but Taylor and Zavala shrug it off.

Shortly after Janet becomes pregnant, the officers are baited into chasing a reckless driver into an apartment complex, where they are ambushed by the same group of Latino gang members. They fight their way into an alley, where Taylor is shot in the chest. As Zavala desperately attends to his partner, the assassins arrive and shoot him several times in the back. Police backup eventually arrives and the gangsters are killed after refusing to surrender.

Taylor survives, having been shielded by Zavala's body. At Zavala's funeral, Taylor tries to deliver a eulogy, but only manages to say a few words: "He was my brother." In a flashback to the day of the shooting, Zavala recounts to Taylor a story from the first time he and his wife slept together, before the two receive the call from dispatch.






Jake Gyllenhaal
Michael Peña
Jake Gyllenhaal (left) and Michael Peña (right) undertook five months of intensive training to prepare for their roles in the film.

David Ayer, who wrote and directed End of Watch, grew up in South Central Los Angeles and has had numerous friends in the LAPD.[6][7] He had written several films previously about police officers in Los Angeles, but while these depicted rogue and corrupt officers, he wanted to feature honest, ethical police work in End of Watch.[7] In contrast to his previous works, Ayer wanted to focus on the friendship between Taylor and Zavala and "have all the cop stuff drop away and become secondary to the chemistry of these guys".[8] Ayer wrote the screenplay over six days in December 2010.[9] Jaime FitzSimons, a longtime friend of Ayer and a former police officer with the LAPD, served as the film's technical advisor, and his experiences from working in Los Angeles inspired several plot points of the film.[6][10][11]:6

Jake Gyllenhaal was the first to be cast in the film; after receiving the script, he read it in an hour and immediately contacted Ayer.[7][9] Michael Peña was cast shortly after, following a string of auditions.[7] He and Gyllenhaal did not bond immediately but gradually became close friends over the process of training and filming.[7] Gyllenhaal and Peña undertook five months of intensive training under the guidance of FitzSimons to prepare for their roles—this included 12-hour ride-alongs with multiple Greater Los Angeles Area law enforcement agencies up to three times a week, as well as training in hand-to-hand combat, police tactics and weapons.[7][12] On his first ride-along, Gyllenhaal witnessed a murder during a drug bust.[13] Tactical training was also given to the other actors playing police officers, including David Harbour, America Ferrera, Cody Horn, and Frank Grillo.[11]:14

End of Watch was filmed on location in South Central Los Angeles, primarily in the area of the LAPD's Newton Division, one of the most violent and gang-affiliated areas of the city.[11]:16 Filming took place over 22 days in August 2011, with a budget of $7.5 million.[7][9] The film was shot in a combination of found footage style and traditional photography.[14] Most scenes were captured by four cameras simultaneously:[11]:6 these included a handheld camera operated by Gyllenhaal, cameras clipped to Gyllenhaal and Peña's vests, and dashboard footage from their patrol car.[7][10] Some scenes were shot entirely by Gyllenhaal.[14] An alternate ending of the film was shot where both of the main characters died, but Ayer ultimately chose to retain the original ending.[14]


Michael Peña (left) and David Ayer promoting the film at the 2012 San Diego Comic-Con International

The world premiere of End of Watch was held on September 8, 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival.[15] It was originally scheduled to be released theatrically on September 28, 2012,[16] but the release was later moved to September 21.[17]

Home media[edit]

End of Watch was released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 22, 2013 by Universal Studios Home Entertainment.


Box office[edit]

End of Watch grossed $41 million in North America and $16.6 million in other territories for a total gross of $57.6 million, against its budget of $7 million.[2]

In its opening weekend in the United States, the film grossed $13.1 million, finishing first at the box office.[18] It was especially popular among Hispanics, who made up 32% of the audience on the opening weekend, and a writer for The Hollywood Reporter attributed the film's popularity to strong word of mouth.[19] The film was initially released in 2,730 theaters and expanded to 2,780 locations in its second week of release.[20] On December 7, the film was given a nationwide re-release in 1,259 theaters[20] shortly after it received two Independent Spirit Award nominations.[21] On the first weekend of its re-release, it grossed $752,000.[20]

Critical response[edit]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an 85% approval rating with an average rating of 7.12/10, based on 179 reviews. The website's consensus states: "End of Watch has the energy, devotion to characters, and charismatic performances to overcome the familiar pitfalls of its genre and handheld format."[22] At Metacritic, the film received a score of 68 out of 100, based on 37 critics, which indicates "generally favorable reviews".[23]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 4 out of 4 stars, calling it "one of the best police movies in recent years, a virtuoso fusion of performances and often startling action",[24] and went on to name the film the fourth best of 2012.[25] Film critic James Berardinelli described End of Watch as "satisfying and emotionally potent ... a good, gritty drama of the sort that seems increasingly rare within the thriller genre", giving the film 3.5 out of 4 stars.[26] Olly Richards, writing for Empire, gave the film 4 out of 5 stars and summarized it as "a collection of cop-movie clichés but presented with sufficient flair and strong performances that the ride is enough, even if it's on rails".[27] While New York's Bilge Ebiri found the film largely unrealistic and Ayer's direction "serviceable at best", he wrote that "Ayer and his cast appear to have so convincingly nailed the way these characters talk and act that you might not even notice the film slipping from workaday grit into out-and-out myth."[28]

Critics praised End of Watch for its avoidance of clichés often used in police films, particularly the buddy cop genre. Peter Debruge of Variety wrote that "Like a knife in the eye, End of Watch cuts past the cliches of standard police procedurals" and praised Ayer for depicting the LAPD as "an honorable and efficient organization of people working together".[29] Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum, who gave the film an A-, described it as "one of the best American cop movies I've seen in a long time [and] also one of the few I've seen that pay serious attention to what cop life feels like, both on and off duty".[30] In a review for The Globe and Mail, however, Rick Groen opined that the focus on "saintly" police officers was less interesting than Ayer's "trademark grit and authenticity".[31]

The performances of Peña and Gyllenhaal were also praised by critics. Peter Debruge commended the realism that the two actors brought to their roles, saying, "Gyllenhaal and Peña so completely reinvent themselves in-character. Instead of wearing the roles like costumes or uniforms, they let the job seep into their skin."[29] The Los Angeles Times's Betsy Sharkey applauded the chemistry between the two lead actors, as well as their individual performances, writing, "As good as Gyllenhaal is in this, Peña nearly steals the show."[32] In a review for USA Today, Claudia Puig commended Gyllenhaal for "giv[ing] his best performance since Brokeback Mountain" and Peña for "shin[ing] with charisma".[33] Roger Ebert highlighted End of Watch as "one of the performances of [Peña's] career" and praised the performances given by the supporting cast, including Natalie Martinez and Anna Kendrick.[24]

An aspect of the film criticized in numerous reviews was its handheld camerawork and cinematography. Richard Corliss wrote for Time that the found footage style of cinematography "borders on the ludicrous" and that "the tactic fatally substitutes photo realism for fauxto realism".[34] Similarly, The Washington Post's Michael O'Sullivan found the aesthetic gimmicky, overused, and "an unnecessary distraction from the story".[35] On the other hand, Amy Biancolli of the San Francisco Chronicle felt that although the cinematography was inconsistent, "it's used to deepen its main characters" and "lends the film a lively intimacy".[36]

Other reviewers criticized the casting of minorities as gang members. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times pointed out that "almost all of [the crimes are] committed by the black and mainly brown people",[37] while The Globe and Mail's Rick Groen criticized "the script's penchant for overdemonizing the ghetto's black residents".[31]


Awards and nominations
Award Date of ceremony Category Nominee(s) Result
Critics' Choice Movie Awards[citation needed] January 10, 2013 Best Actor in an Action Movie Jake Gyllenhaal Nominated
Golden Trailer Awards[38] May 3, 2013 Best Independent TV Spot Open Road Films, Aspect Ratio Won
Best Action Open Road Films, Ignition Creative Nominated
Best Foreign Action Trailer Tobis Film Nominated
Independent Spirit Awards[39] February 23, 2013 Best Supporting Male Michael Peña Nominated
Best Cinematography Roman Vasyanov Nominated
Key Art Awards[40] October 24, 2013 Best Audio/Visual Technique Open Road Films, Aspect Ratio 2nd place
Best Trailer – Audio/Visual Open Road Films, Ignition Creative 3rd place
London Film Festival[41] October 20, 2012 Best Film Nominated
MTV Movie Awards[42] April 14, 2013 Best Latino Actor Michael Peña Nominated
National Board of Review[39] January 8, 2013 Top Ten Independent Films Won
Zurich Film Festival[43] September 29, 2012 Best International Feature Film Nominated


  1. ^ "END OF WATCH (15)". British Board of Film Classification. September 5, 2012. Retrieved November 6, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c "End of Watch (2012)". The Numbers. Retrieved December 1, 2016.
  3. ^ "End of Watch (2012)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  4. ^ "Review: End of Watch, Jake Gyllenhaal on patrol". The Independent. Retrieved 23 November 2012. It is an unconventional take on the action thriller format, featuring plenty of ostensible “found-footage”.
  5. ^ "End Of Watch". AMC Theatres.
  6. ^ a b Atchity, Matt (January 24, 2013). "RT Interview: David Ayer Talks End of Watch". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h Gettell, Oliver (September 19, 2012). "David Ayer writes his own rules for the cop genre in 'End of Watch'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  8. ^ Vejvoda, Jim (January 23, 2013). "End of Watch Blu-ray Interview With David Ayer". IGN. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  9. ^ a b c Weintraub, Steve (September 5, 2011). "20 Things to Know About END OF WATCH From Our Exclusive Set Visit; Plus the First Two Official Images and Synopsis". Collider. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  10. ^ a b Carbone, Nick (September 21, 2012). "End of Watch Director David Ayer on Reinventing the Cop Genre". Time. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d "End of Watch Production Notes" (PDF) (Press release). StudioCanal. 2012. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 24, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  12. ^ Lee, Chris (September 19, 2012). "Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Peña on Their 'End of Watch' Bromance". The Daily Beast. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  13. ^ Shoard, Catherine (November 8, 2012). "Jake Gyllenhaal: 'End of Watch changed my life'". The Guardian. Retrieved May 12, 2014.
  14. ^ a b c Radish, Christina. "David Ayer Talks END OF WATCH Blu-ray, Directing Arnold Schwarzenegger in TEN, and Says He's Writing a WW2 Tank Movie". Collider. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  15. ^ "Jake Gyllenhaal Talks 'End Of Watch' At Toronto Premiere". September 10, 2012. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  16. ^ "Release Date Set for End of Watch, Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena". March 2, 2012. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
  17. ^ Sneider, Jeff (July 23, 2012). "Sam Worthington in talks for Ayer's 'Ten'". Variety. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  18. ^ "End of Watch". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved May 18, 2014.
  19. ^ McClintock, Pamela (September 24, 2012). "Box Office Report: Underdog 'End of Watch' Comes From Behind to Win Weekend". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 20, 2014.
  20. ^ a b c "End of Watch – Box Office". The Numbers. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  21. ^ Erbland, Kate (November 30, 2012). "Did You Miss 'End of Watch" In Theaters? Open Road Films Is Fixing That". Film School Rejects. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  22. ^ "End of Watch (2012)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  23. ^ "End of Watch Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 21, 2012.
  24. ^ a b Ebert, Roger (September 19, 2012). "End of Watch". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  25. ^ Ebert, Roger (December 27, 2012). "Ebert's Top Movies of 2012". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  26. ^ Berardinelli, James (September 20, 2012). "End of Watch". Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  27. ^ Richards, Olly. "End Of Watch". Empire. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  28. ^ Ebiri, Bilge (September 22, 2012). "Movie Review: In End of Watch, the Cops Are Actually the Good Guys for Once". New York. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  29. ^ a b Debruge, Peter (September 8, 2012). "Review: 'End of Watch'". Variety. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  30. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (October 19, 2012). "End of Watch (2012)". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  31. ^ a b Groen, Rick (September 20, 2012). "End of Watch: Saintly cops make for a sanctimonious action flick". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  32. ^ Sharkey, Betsy (September 20, 2012). "Movie review: Good cops on mean streets in 'End of Watch'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  33. ^ Puig, Claudia (September 21, 2012). "'End of Watch': Riveting, unnerving buddy-cop story". USA Today. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  34. ^ Corliss, Richard (September 21, 2014). "End of Watch: City of Angels in Blue". Time. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  35. ^ O'Sullivan, Michael (September 21, 2014). "A macho twist on buddy cops". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  36. ^ Biancolli, Amy (September 20, 2012). "'End of Watch' review: tense, eye catching". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  37. ^ Dargis, Manohla (September 20, 2012). "Cops Who Tote Guns and Video Cameras". The New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2014.
  38. ^ "The 14th Annual Golden Trailer Award Nominees". Golden Trailer Awards. 2013. Archived from the original on July 7, 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  39. ^ a b "End of Watch (2012) – Awards". The New York Times. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  40. ^ "Winners 2013". Key Art Awards. 2013. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  41. ^ "Helena Bonham Carter and Tim Burton to receive BFI Fellowships". British Film Institute. 2012. Retrieved May 16, 2014.
  42. ^ "Tr3s Celebrates the "2013 MTV Movie Awards" with the "2013 Best Latin Actor" Award". Entertainment Affair. March 15, 2013. Retrieved May 17, 2014.
  43. ^ Mitchell, Wendy (October 1, 2012). "Zurich prizes go to Breaking Horizons, Der Prozess, Broken and The Imposter". Screen International. Retrieved May 17, 2014.

External links[edit]