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Film / End of Watch

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End of Watch is a 2012 American action thriller film written and directed by David Ayer, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.

Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike "Z" Zavala (Peña) are two LAPD police officers of Unit 13, their district handling the infamous crime ridden South Central Los Angeles. The film follows the two both on the job and in their private lives. Things turn sour when the two unknowingly start sticking their noses into the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel's activities that eventually puts a hit on their heads when they discover something they shouldn't have.

The supporting cast includes Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrera, Frank Grillo, and David Harbour. The film is shot mostly with a video look to it, including many shots that are, In-Universe, taken by handheld camcorders, squad car cameras or the officers' lapel cams.


  • 13 Is Unlucky: Both Taylor and Z are police officers of Unit 13 and the latter is killed by the drug cartel while the former suffers injuries that will most likely have him retire from the force.
  • Abusive Parents: Shown when Taylor and Z get a call about "missing children" - a worried mother is freaking out about her missing children, while her partner is pretending to be asleep on the couch and consistently tells her to say they're at her grandmother's place. Z and Taylor find them duct-taped in the closet, because the father couldn't stand their crying.
  • Action Dad: Downplayed in both cases. Z mentions his wife being pregnant early in the movie and she gives birth sometime later. Taylor also mentions his wife being pregnant. Both men are active police officers, but in the end, Z dies and it's heavily implied that Taylor retires from being a police officer.
  • Ambiguous Situation: More like "Ambiguous Past Relationship". When La La starts hitting on Orozzco, the latter becomes very, very hostile and vehemently insists she wouldn't touch La La if she was the last woman on Earth, and the two appear to be familiar with each other.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Z's wife and Taylor's lady-friend both have a turn yelling at their respective significant others sometime after the house fire. While they displayed great bravery, Z and Taylor did charge inside a burning house when neither of them were trained for that job and could have died in there. Z's wife was especially worried, because she's pregnant at the time.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Big Evil and his gang won't be reppin' the Cartels anymore, or shooting up the neighborhoods, not with several hundred bullets sent through their chests. But during Taylor and Z's ambush, Z dies, while Taylor is left a broken man with grief and broken bones that will most likely force him off the force, like Van Hauser.
  • Black-and-White Morality: Taylor and Z are good guys with no real flaws. The villains are thoroughly reprehensible. The main villain even calls himself "Big Evil."
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: One of the cartel runners carried a chromed and gold plated, diamond encrusted M1911 and a gold plated AKM.
    "Check it out: Liberace's AK!"
  • Boyfriend-Blocking Dad: When discussing a possible daughter, Taylor states that not only will she not date a cop, she won't date anyone- ever.
  • Camera Abuse: The camera generally gets shaken about, but the big one comes when Taylor gets shot through the camera in the ending.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: The Big Bad calls himself Big Evil.
  • The Cartel: After uncovering a house in South Central with trafficked people inside, Taylor and Z lose the case to the feds. It turns out this was used by the Sinaloe Cartel, who order them murdered.
  • Cassandra Truth: A gangbanger that Z had fought before warns the pair that there's a hit out on them. They immediately dismiss it.
  • The Cavalry Arrives Late: Happens a few times. Most notably at the end where Brian and Z have already been shot. Z doesn't survive.
  • Cerebus Rollercoaster: The format of the movie. Scenes switch back and forth between the hard life of an LAPD officer in a crime ridden area to joking conversations between Taylor and Z. It eventually culminates to a really hard Mood Whiplash.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The Sureño gang uses a silver MPV in a drive-by shooting at the beginning of the film. When its torched wreck is discovered, Taylor suspects it's been used in a shooting and explains why gangs prefer to use these as they do not attract attention and can carry a lot of people (and guns). When another one appears in front of the patrol car after a hit is placed on Z on Taylor, you know something bad is about to happen.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Tre, who Z had a brawl with earlier, later informs the partners that The Cartel put a hit on them.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: When going through some of his thing after their first night together, Janet notices a list (with numbers) of his past flings, and promptly said he won't be needing it anymore.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: There's a whole lot of swearing, but the Curbside Crew drop obscenities between every word.
  • Covers Always Lie: No, that AK is never used by either of them.
  • Da Chief: Taylor looks up to him and he has no issues with the main characters. The pair's sergeant occasionally barks at them, however.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: After trading insults with a suspect, Zavala agrees to fight him. Zavala's victory, combined with his decision to only arrest the suspect on the original charge of disorderly conduct (as opposed to assault on a police officer) wins gangbanger Tre's grudging respect. He is later shown speaking well of Zavala, and eventually warns the protagonists of the hit that was placed on them.
  • Disappeared Dad: Z becomes this to his and Gabby's son after being killed by the Cartel.
  • Disney Death: Taylor. He passes out wounded, seemingly dead, as Z stays at his side, before The Crew catches up to him and shoots him fatally, leaving both men lifeless in the middle of the alley. In the next scene, Taylor is shown injured yet alive at Z's funeral.
  • Dirty Coward: The huge parolee thug who has no problem beating a small, panicking, rookie woman cop, but immediately surrenders and puts his hands up when Taylor and Zavala arrive on the scene.
    Thug: I'm done. I ain't resisting.
  • Documentary: In-universe. Taylor is filming his day for a "school project". Action scenes switch between what those cameras are seeing and regular angles.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Curbside Gang members range from just barely teens up to late twenties or early thirties in the case of Big Evil, and both male and female participate in the drive-by shooting and the ambush hit on Taylor and Z at the climax of the film. One is also a lesbian-no one cares.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Inverted, early scenes establish Taylor and Z as borderline Sociopathic Heroes, they enjoy the action of the cop life and seem to have enjoyed the shootout at the beginning of the movie. But as the film goes on, you see them as being exceptionally good cops who are more than willing to put their life on the line. After they rescue a family from a burning house, earning a medal of valor, they notably start acting less bloodthirsty and more professional and focused on their job.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: The Border Patrol footage of the Cartel leader ordering that Z and Taylor be murdered for uncovering one of his gang's LA houses shows his little daughter in the background.
  • Eye Scream: Van Hauser's right eyeball is split in half by a knife, causing his retirement from the force.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Family seems to be brought up quite often by the two officers. Especially Z. Taylor reveals that Janet is pregnant just before the climax, which leads to the fake-out where it seems like both died, when Taylor survived because Z took the brunt of the last attack.
  • Fight Scene: Z and repeat offender Tre go at it to settle their differences after Tre throws some racial insults. After losing the fight, Tre agrees to cuff himself and come quietly, while Taylor and Zavala don't charge him with Assaulting an Officer.
  • Fingore: Taylor got his radio shot out of his hand during the initial ambush, the actual injury was unknown (actual bullet through the hand or shrapnel from the shattered radio).
  • Flat Character: The closest thing we get to character development in the film is Taylor getting married.
  • Foreshadowing: The Sergeant can at one point be seen talking about how he lost a close friend in the military because said friend took a bullet for him. During a shootout at the end of the film, Zavala dies whilst Taylor lives, because Zavala shields his unconscious partner and saves him from being fatally shot.
  • Found Footage: The vast majority of the film is depicted using a combination of dash cams, lapel cams and straightforward camcorders. Both the cops and the Curbside Crew are explicitly shown recording themselves. Even something without an actual In-Universe camera source is generally filmed with a handheld style, giving it a Mockumentary feel without being too overt about the format.
  • Friend to All Children: Taylor appears to be this as between him and his partner, he is the angriest at the two Abusive Parents for using duct-tape to keep their children quiet; and after removing the duct-tape from one of the kids, Taylor places a reassuring gesture to the child. And after discovering his wife is pregnant, he is glowing with pride.
  • Good is Not Nice: Both our protagonists. See Jerkass below.
    Zavala: (to Taylor) You know you're a piece of shit, right?
  • Greater-Scope Villain: The Cartel leader who orders the hit from south of the border through Big Evil.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Zavala. Whether he knew Taylor was alive or not doesn't matter, as he knows he's going to die. He makes his final act in life reaching for his sidearm in defence of his wounded partner, getting shot to death as a result. However, unbeknownst to him, his shielding Taylor from the hail of bullets ends up successfully saving his friend's life.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Taylor and Z say that they're brothers, and the whole film is basically scene after scene reinforcing it.
  • I'm Not a Hero, I'm...: Z and Taylor have a moment like this after they receive their medals for saving the kids from the house fire, partially because of the Anger Born of Worry they received from the ladies in their respective lives.
    Zavala: You feel like a hero?
    Taylor: (thinks for a moment) No.
    Zavala: Man, me neither. What's a hero feel like?
    Taylor: I dunno, man.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: The criminals in the film don't aim their weapons well, which doesn't help when using the notoriously inaccurate AKM. A team of five of them fire on Z and Taylor late in the film, from an elevated position where Z and Taylor have no cover from, and only end up landing one shot. It's even lampshaded by the lesbian gangbanger right after.
  • Jerkass:
    • Van Hauser, in a very stoic, cold, and passive-aggressive way - it's explained he's like this, due to getting repeatedly fucked over by the LAPD for a promotion and placed on shit duties.
    Taylor: Oh, you mean the USS Van Hauser? LAPD's stealthiest submarine? Only surfaces at End of Watch?
    • Taylor and Z touch it at times, such as pulling juvenile pranks on their fellow officers, talking shit to van Hauser's face, annoying the ICE, repeatedly cursing and roughing up suspects, and engaging in very fratboy-like antics (not that the rest of the department, "Boot" and van Hauser notwithstanding, are much better).
  • Jurisdiction Friction: Officers Zavala and Taylor are told to step aside by DEA.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Probably thanks to shock, Van Hauser is remarkably calm as he explains the events leading up to him getting a knife wedged in his eye.
  • Mockumentary: Much of the film is shot from Taylor's handheld camera as part of his class documentary project, as well as apparently recovered footage from the Curbside gang, who are constantly filming themselves.
  • Mood Whiplash: After Z's funeral, the film flashes back to a humorous story that Z tells about having to hide from his wife's parents the first night they had sex, which is funny as well as tragic given the information we know about his future.
  • Mundane Utility: Taylor carries around a camera to film his police lifestyle. While raiding a house, he uses it to peek around corners.
  • New Meat: The young, pretty, fresh-from-the-academy officer assigned as Van Hauser's partner. The two protagonists don't even know her name. She quits after a criminal severely beats her face in.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Van Hauser and his rookie partner encounter a parolee (probably a parole violator from the context), who leaves a knife in Van Hauser's eye and is beating the hell out of the rookie until Taylor and Zavala show up.
  • Oh, Crap!: Taylor and Z know something is really bad when ICE in para-military gear show up.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • After being cavalier with the shootout in the beginning of the film, they show significant restraint when dealing with a thug who viciously attacked two fellow officers. Their Sergeant even said they would have easily been exonerated if they killed the guy, but Taylor just said he didn't feel like shooting someone today.
    • La La is friendly towards one of the dancers she meets at a party.
  • Police Procedural: A good portion of the film is Found Footage-style examination of a ghetto cop's day-to-day life. The bad aspects of the job are often highlighted.
  • Professional Killer: The "Curbside" gang are a foursome of Latino gangbangers who do hits ordered by the Sinaloa Cartel in South Central LA.
  • Properly Paranoid: When Z pulls over to the curb so the partners can have a chat with Tre, he covertly draws and aims his service pistol at him through the car door- because Tre and his Bloods crew are almost certainly armed, and Z can't be sure they don't hold a grudge over their earlier fistfight (see Fight Scene).
  • Psycho Lesbian: La La, one of Big Evil's crew members. Aside from her threatening and flirting with female cop Orozzco, and making out with a dancer at a ghetto party, her depravity and sexuality are independent.
  • Really Gets Around: Taylor, which he also deconstructs. He mentions having meaningless one-night stands with random women who he then has a Friends with Benefits type of relationship and states that it is getting tiring because he wants to find someone he can have a meaningful relationship with.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: Almost happens with Janet, as she uses Taylor's camera to leave him a message after their first night together and she holds up a snub nose revolver he has in his bedroom and asks him to take her to the shooting range sometime. She handles it like someone who doesn't know how to hold a gun, but doesn't make any significant mistakes (ie. finger on the trigger, ignorant of where the barrel is pointing).
  • Ruthless Foreign Gangsters: In the beginning, a black gang is shown complaining about the shifting demographics of their neighborhood, then getting gunned down by the invading Sureño gang.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Why is the Big Bad called "Big Evil"? "'Cause my evil is big."
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: The sergeant reveals that he's still suffering from a partner taking a fatal bullet for him, back when he was in the military.
  • Shown Their Work: A lot of little details stand out, from the radio call codes to the use of actual classification codes on a surveillance video. The viewer may not know what they all mean, but the filmmakers certainly did their homework to make them authentic.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: A good chunk of the characters would qualify to some extent, but Big Evil and his followers particularly stand out in this regard (and among them, Big Evil himself and La La are easily the worst), which is especially notable in a film with as much foul language as this one.
  • Spoiler Title: "End of Watch" is a term that refers to the end of a police officer's duty shift. It is also formally used when police officers are killed in the line of duty.
  • Taking the Bullet: At Brian's wedding their Captain mentions, after drinking a lot, that during a tour of duty in the military a buddy of his took a bullet for him. He still feels guilty, thinking he was the one who deserved to die. It's implied that the reason Brian survived the final ambush is because Z's body, including his bulletproof vest, was able to shield him from the worst of it. It was likely unintentional because it just happened to be the right angle, but works the same way.
  • Those Two Guys: Officers Orozco and Davis, the female pair, always seem to be the second on the scene.
  • Turn in Your Badge: The rookie hands her sergeant her badge while being carted off to a hospital, indicating her resignation.
  • Two Words: I Can't Count: Orozco when she explains to Taylor that bodycams don't have erase buttons.
    Orozco: Listen, you know they can subpoena that shit if something goes sideways, right? Think twice.
    Taylor: Two words. Erase button.
    Orozco: Two words. Just 'cause you guys think you're these big ghetto gunfighters now don’t mean you can be dropping your calls.
    Taylor: That was at least two dozen words.
    Orozco: Well, I barely got a G.E.D. so what do you expect, white boy?
  • Worthy Opponent: Repeat offender Tre speaks of Z and Taylor like this to his underlings after the fight scene, with obvious respect in his voice, because he notes that they could've double-teamed him but instead Z gave him a straight up one-on-one fight and told Taylor to stay out of it. He also notes that they could have given him a third felony charge for their fight with him, but instead booked him for disorderly conduct and let him go free.
  • Would Hit a Girl: The parolee who viciously beats up a female rookie.