End of Watch Is One Very Manly Tear Jerker
By Alex Cranz
There’s a difference between a sad movie and a tear jerker. A sad movie just prompts an emotion quite suddenly. A tear jerker is formed with the specific purpose of wrenching sobs out of you. Every move is calculated as efficiently as an horror film or thriller. The director must be a master manipulator and guide you to that emotional moment. You both know it’s coming but on the other side as you wipe away your tears and glance around you to make sure no one can see your glassy eyes you have to feel a moment of catharsis. You can’t feel so manipulated that you’re angry at the film. You must simply be appreciative that they took you on their journey.
Usually tear jerkers are crafted for women. We’re given heroines with a terminal disease like Alzheimer’s or cancer or a hero destined to be separated by his love by violent death in a gun fight or a mudslide.
They’re not always intended for men because we like to praise and reward stoicism in men and there is nothing stoic about softly weeping over fictional characters.
So while we ladies get Beaches and The Notebook guys get told to suck it up and watch some dudes punch other dudes. That’s not cool! Nor is it fair. I like to think that’s what David Ayer was thinking about when he wrote and directed End of Watch. He’s made a business of writing conflicted cops and criminals in The Fast and the Furious and Training Day and he was ready to write something that didn’t just flirt with a bromance but full on embraced it and told guys that it was okay to cry like they were watching Point Break or Terminator 2.
He heaps the foreshadowing on while allowing Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña to play off each other with a natural ease. This is a real friendship we’re watching on screen with all the ball busting and jokes and brief moments of intense emotion.
They’re supported by a cast without a weak link among them. America Ferrera and Cody Horn (proving with this and Magic Mike that she has a future as an actress) are fellow cops meant to be female mirrors to Peña and Gyllenhaal’s characters (only signficantly gayer and more prone to smooches instead of just longing looks). They never steal their scenes but they anchor them and color the world Ayer has crafted–making it feel like the season finale of a television show rather than an hour and forty-five minutes movie. Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez play the love interests, and they nearly DO steal their scenes. They’re charismatic and fun and brighten up the weary world of these cops. It’s a marked departure compared to the wives of most movie cops. These women love and respect and support their husbands. They’re concerned but they never nag and there’s a feeling that as much as these guys love each other it can never be at the cost of their private lives.
By the film’s end you’re almost sad you have to leave these characters. They immediately ingratiate themselves and feel less like theater and more like old friends you’re watching on a twenty-foot screen. That’s helped by the documentary style cinematography employed. According to the characters in the film they’re shooting everything they see with hand-held cameras and lapel pin spy cameras. Ayer’s plays fast and loose with the rule though. More than one scene (notably a wrestling/boxing match early in the film and a love scene at the midway point) is instead shot on shaky studio cameras. It’s never quite distracting. I noticed it because I’m a critic but my savvy movie buddy didn’t pick up on it once.
She was busy being enraptured by this bromance that’ll make you cry. And like the best tear jerkers you see it coming and willingly lean into the pain.