OK, so, first thing’s first: I am admittedly waaaaay behind on this one, what with End of Watch actually being released in late September of 2012. For whatever reason, I didn’t get around to watching David Ayer’s L.A. cop drama until Netflix made it available for streaming. Oddly enough, this proved to be a fortuitous turn, in that it allowed me the freedom to go back and watch End of Watch a second time – developing a more critical eye for the constant innuendo, if not the ongoing sexual tension between the two main characters (South Central police officers played by Michael Pena and Jake Gyllenhaal).
I can’t imagine any extracurricular reason why someone might want to sit through End of Watch a second time. I mean, the film got semi-decent reviews, sure. But the reality is End of Watch is incredibly awkward to digest, the intimate back-and-forth so often bordering on homoerotic that you eventually wish the two lead characters would simply kiss and get it over with already. My initial impression upon noticing this was, Hmmm … That’s odd. And yet, upon deeper investigation, it became undeniably clear that the ongoing, almost-palpable attraction between Zavala (Pena) and Taylor (Gyllenhaal) was absolutely intentional. I mean, it had to be, really.
Consider the fact that End of Watch begins with a stoic voiceover by Gyllenhaal’s Taylor, who insists that he has “thousands of brothers and sisters [just like him] who will each lay down their lives for him.” Consider that the two central characters, while working as positive, contributing members of society, are considered deviant pigs by the majority of their constituents. Consider that David Ayer’s screenplay makes a point of ensuring the two officers constantly refer to each other as “partner” (at least 15x or more, by my count). Consider that neither of these two characters has any male friends above and beyond each other.
Consider that about 10 minutes into the movie, there is what can only be described as an uber-awkward wrassling match between Officer Zavala (Pena) and a South Central thug; that at one point during that tussle, Zavala wanders over to Officer Taylor (Gyllenhaal) who runs his hand through Zavala’s hair while the two nuzzle heads, that the aforementioned thug subsequently tries to convince his other hardcore buddies that the cops are actually OK, that he “got down” with one of them and it caused him to reevaluate the way he looks at things.
Consider that a few minutes later a supporting character named Officer Van Hauser, played here by David Harbour, says the following to Zavala and Taylor: “One day the LAPD is going to fuck you in the ass. They are going to fuck you so long and so hard that you’re going to want to eat your gun just to make it stop.” Consider that Taylor’s response to this is to insist that he “can’t wait to get it up the ass”; that Zavala’s immediate reaction is to pull a tiny bottle of Purell out of his pocket, insisting “it’s really K-Y.”
Consider the following lines of dialogue, each of which is spoken by Officer Zavala (Pena):
- “The LAPD has got a big fucking cock.”
- “Why doesn’t he just leave his badge on the Watch Commander’s desk and go home and eat a bowl of dicks?”
- “Look … Liberace’s AK.” (When referring to a gold-plated assault weapon).
Consider that there is an entire exchange during which Zavala and Taylor imagine what it might be like to date female versions of each other. Consider these two additional exchanges between the characters, both of which occur about midway through the film:
No. 1: (While Discussing Their Commanding Officer, Captain Reese)
Taylor: Woman want him, men want to be like him.
Zavala: No, but you, like, want him.
Taylor: Dude, I’m not gay, but I’d go down on him if he asked.
Zavala: Sometimes I don’t know when you’re kidding, and I have to know when you’re kidding.
Taylor: I’m not kidding.
Zavala: I’ve gotta know when you’re kidding.
Taylor: I’m not kidding.
No. 2: (On The Occasion of Officer Taylor’s Wedding … to a woman)
Taylor: You know I love you, man.
Zavala: I love you, bro.
Taylor: I would lay down my life for you, dude.
Zavala: I would take a fucking bullet for you, bro.
During the same sequence, there’s a brief tete-a-tete during which Officer Zavala’s wife insists that her husband enjoys having several fingers shoved up his ass (The notion of ass play is actually brought up earlier in the film by Zavala, himself, who denies being into “that freaky shit”). The wedding sequence ends with Taylor and Zavala alone, at the bar, both of them drunk, Zavala insisting that Taylor’s new bride doesn’t know him like he knows him (Wink-wink. Nudge-nudge).
Keep in mind, both officers are patrolling an ill-reputed section of Los Angeles known as “The South End”, that after the two emerge from a burning house fire, they embrace each other amidst the flames, Zavala cradling Taylor as he yells at all of the other public safety personnel to stay away. All of which is leading up to the climax, a gat-blasting gun battle through the back alleys of South Central, with Zavala and Taylor being set upon by more than a dozen homicidal maniacs. In the end Zavala winds up cradling a severely injured Taylor yet again, stroking his head in the blind spot of an alley as the two of them declare their undying love for each other. I shit you not. This really happens. And it happens only seconds before Zavala is shot down in cold blood, leading to a pan-out of the two unconscious officers lying collapsed upon each other, wrapped in a heartfelt embrace, victimized for little more than who they were and what they stood for.
Is it a stretch? I certainly don’t think so, especially when you take into account the only other viable alternative: that David Ayer and his entire crew were actually so oblivious as to have missed all of this entirely. On top of which, assuming you were David Ayer, and you were angling to make a big-budget, hard-hitting film that was actually a subtextual thesis on the plight of closeted homosexuals in America, which A-List actor do you think you’d be most likely to pursue?
And with that, I rest my case.
(End of Watch is currently streaming via Netflix.)