END OF WATCH
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Spectre
The film opens to narration by Officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhall) saying he is a cop, and if you break the law he will come after you and enforce it. He may not even agree with said law, but he will enforce it. If you resist, he will use force. If you shoot at him, he will return fire. Taylor notes he is a man and can be killed like any other, but he has thousands of “brothers and sisters” waiting to help and die for him and vice versa.
Taylor and his partner, Mike Zavala (Michael Peña), are on patrol chasing a car. They are getting increasingly frustrated by their unwillingness to give up. Eventually, Taylor fishtails the car out. Two men come out and shoot up their car. Taylor and Zavala return fire, killing the two.
Taylor has been recording his life as an officer, as a recruitment video for the department. He tries to get Zavala on the tape and Zavala cusses on the tape on purpose to rile Taylor up. Another cop, Van Hauser (David Harbour) gets pissed at Taylor filming him and says he will report him to the Sarge.
Sarge (Frank Grillo) starts up a meeting with all the cops welcoming Taylor and Zavala back to active duty after they got “cleared” on their recent shooting. Captain Reese (Jaime FitzSimons) steps in and reminds everyone that even a justified shooting is still a homicide. Still, if they do the right thing, he will always have their backs. If they do something illegal, he will throw them to the wolves.
Sarge tells the officers they need to be writing up more tickets before the chain of command starts yelling at him. He gives Taylor and Zavala the X9 district, not the X13 they are usually accustomed to. The cops head out. Another cop is Orozco (America Ferrara) who has an equally minded female partner. Meanwhile, Van Hauser is partnered with Sook (Kristy Wu), a nervous, easily flustered Asian woman.
Taylor and Zavala go on patrol, both of them wearing clip-on cameras to capture everything that goes down (Taylor still has his other camera). Zavala is happy to be back at work as his wife, Gabby (Natalie Martinez), made him do a bunch of stuff around the house. Taylor laughs, but Zavala notes he is not “the guy at Home Depot” and doesn’t know a lot of handy stuff. They get call and respond.
They go to a man’s house, where the man has apparently concluded his mailman is stealing his mail. He is loud and uncooperative, and threatens to beat up Taylor and Zavala. When he uses racial slurs, he and Zavala engage in an “off the books” fight, which Zavala eventually wins.
Later that night, a group of Mexican gang members are driving in a van, getting ready to do a drive-by shooting.
The gang member that fought Zavala is talking to his buddies as they are having a cookout. His friends rib him about getting his ass kicked by a cop, but the guy shrugs and notes that isn’t the point. Zavala showed him respect by not backing down and not reporting him (he had two strikes already). Him winning or not was irrelevant; both men stood their ground. The man then speaks about how the neighborhood is slowly being taken over by the Mexican gangs and cartels and how he hates it.
The gang members in the van drive by and shoot at the group, killing one. The Mexican gang leader, Big Evil (Maurice Compte), congratulates one of his men for taking part.
The next morning, Taylor and Zavala find the van, burnt to a crisp, and notice the shell casings. Two detectives show up and act rude towards them, telling them to tape off the street. They do, and Van Hauser and his partner show up to relieve them. Van Hauser warns them about their cowboy ways, noting that one day the LAPD is going to bend them over and fuck them hard. They laugh off his warning.
Waiting for another call, Taylor and Zavala screw around in the car. Zavala says Taylor should marry one of his cousins and Taylor says that would be awful, doing a Mexican voice. Zavala proceeds to doing a mocking white person voice in turn.
They get a call about missing kids. The woman lets them in and is in a panicked state. Taylor sees a man sleeping on the couch and makes him get up. Suspicious of their behavior, Taylor takes a look around only to come back and cuff the man and threaten him into listening to them. It turns out the kids were duct taped in the back room. Their parents had wanted to get high and didn’t want them going anywhere but forgot about them in the process.
The next day, Taylor discusses his problems with women. He gets women for one or two dates, a few booty calls, then has to end it when they are unable to have intelligent conversations. Zavala, who has been married to his high school sweetheart (Gabby), can’t understand his problem since he gets to be with many women, but Taylor says he doesn’t just want sex but an intelligent woman. He has been seeing a new one, Janet (Anna Kendrick), and he’s starting to think she is something special. Zavala invites them to a cousin’s quinceañera.
Taylor and Zavala get a call about a noise complaint for a party. Backup shows up with them. It is Big Evil, and his entourage, including the cold blooded La La (Yahira Garcia). La La has a history with Orozco. Orozco berates her for being a stupid female gangbanger like the rest of them. Taylor asks about Big Evil’s nickname (“Because, my evil’s Big.”). They shut the party down.
At Zavala’s cousin’s birthday party, Taylor and Janet attend. Gabby is pregnant with Zavala’s child, and Janet asks to touch her stomach. Janet thinks it is great. Later, she and Taylor go back to his apartment and have sex.
The next morning, she leaves him a little message on his camera that she looked through his wallet. She thinks it is great that he has a picture of his mom. She also finds a list of girl’s names (a booty call list) and notes he won’t need that anymore. She also notices his gun, and says she would love to go shooting sometime.
Taylor and Zavala are staking out Big Evil’s house when their Sarge comes up. He tells them Van Hauser has filed a verbal complaint with Taylor for filming him and drives off. They see Big Evil’s mom give another guy a pot of soup, and they follow him. They see a CD hanging on the dash, giving them cause to pull him over. The guy immediately pulls a gun and almost hits Zavala with a shot. They quickly cuff him and hand him over to backup. They find stacks of cash in the soup pot and a gold plated AK-47.
Back at the station, they do paperwork for the bust. Captain Reese congratulates the two on the great bust. Zavala notes Taylor is always nervous around the Captain. Taylor says women want him and men want to be with him. “I’d go down on him if he asked,” Taylor says, keeping a straight face. Zavala says he needs to know if he is joking about that. Taylor keeps up the straight face for a little longer and then laughs. Zavala offers to take him and Janet out, but Taylor says he is taking Janet to a concert in Vegas and heads off. “Have fun doing white people shit,” Zavala replies as he leaves.
Taylor and Janet are driving to their concert singing “Hey Ma” by Cam’ron together.
Another night patrol; Taylor and Zavala get a call about a house fire. When they get there, the second floor is in flames, and the mother is yelling about her kids. Seeing that the fire department isn’t there yet, Zavala runs in, and Taylor follows. They get out two boys, only to be told by the mother that she has a daughter too. They run back in and nearly choke on the smoke getting the girl out. They get out, though Taylor’s eyes are singed slightly by the smoke. For their selfless act of bravery, both receive the Medal of Valor.
Days later, in a convenience store, Taylor asks Zavala if he feels like a hero. Zavala shakes his head. Taylor says he doesn’t know how being a hero is supposed to make you feel different. He then whispers he followed up some leads on that cartel guy they pulled over; he found an address. He wants to check it out. Zavala is against it, saying they are not detectives, but Taylor says he wants to be. Taylor is firm on it.
They check the place out, and don’t find much. However, when they hear a scream, they have all the probable cause to search. When a guy answers the door, they bust in, finding more guns, money, and pictures on the wall. Taylor pulls away a curtain to find a cage with over thirty people held inside. The man they have in custody is involved in human trafficking.
The Feds immediately pull up and the lead agent scorns Taylor and Zavala for getting in the middle of their operation. Taylor talks to him later saying he didn’t mean to barge into their operation, they just stumbled into it. The agent throws them a bone; the man they arrested was part of a Mexican drug cartel, they are operating in LA and they follow a different set of rules. He warns them to be very careful.
As they drive off, Taylor is beyond pissed by what he saw. He cannot believe human trafficking would be going on in LA.
An unknown amount of time later, Gabby gives birth to Zavala’s son. Janet and Taylor show up to congratulate them. They are naming him Michael Zavala Jr., after his father.
Later, on patrol, Taylor mentions that he is going to get engaged to Janet since her parents are old school. Zavala tells him to be cautious about this, as marriage is no laughing matter. He notes that Gabby lost her virginity to him and hasn’t been with anyone else since. When Zavala told his grandmother they were getting engaged, he was asked one question, “Can you live without her?” If the answer was yes, he needed to forget her. Zavala tells his partner and friend to think hard about that, because he did and thankfully hasn’t had to ever look back.
Taylor hears a call on the scanner. It’s Van Hauser’s female partner. She’s scared out of her mind and doesn’t know where they are. Taylor guesses their location and finds Van Hauser, alive, but with a knife in his eye. They go to locate his partner. A large Mexican gangbanger is beating her half to death. They arrest him and check on her; her face is beaten in and bloody. Taylor tries to check if she is conscious but can’t find her nametag and calls her “Sook.” That is enough for her to respond. Orozco and other backup arrive.
Van Hauser is taken to the hospital. Sarge is at the scene and tells Taylor he should have shot the gangbanger for what he did to Van Hauser’s partner. He shows them the badge of Van Hauser’s partner. She is going to live but has immediately resigned after what happened. Orozco and her partner react coldly to the news, saying she couldn’t handle the job like them. Sarge reprimands Orozco, saying they should have some compassion for their fellow officer; she nearly died and decided to get out while she still could. There was nothing cowardly in that.
Taylor and Janet get married. Zavala gives a best man speech, telling Janet she has to be strong to be a cop’s wife, but she is not alone, as every cop and their family has now become her family as they take care of their own.
During the reception, Taylor, Zavala, and their wives sit at a table. Gabby explains to Janet that if she wants to keep the marriage fresh she will have to try numerous new things in the bedroom. She then proceeds to explain and graphically mime the various sex acts to Janet’s shock and amusement.
Taylor and Zavala talk privately. Zavala tells him that he’s his best friend, but he is still a piece of shit when it comes to his character. He tells Taylor that if he breaks Janet’s heart, he will kill him. Zavala also notes that if anything happened to Taylor, he would take care of Janet and any children they had.
On another patrol, they randomly pick a case to investigate. Taylor and Zavala check on a house. A woman’s daughter is concerned about her mother, who hasn’t been heard from in days. They bust in the house, only to smell the stench of death. They see credit cards and drug materials. Squatters have set in. They find the woman murdered, suffocated in plastic bags. Zavala checks a box of peppers only to find hidden cocaine in one. Seeing a stove pot still on, they check the rest of the house, only to find a cartel grave, with numerous dismembered corpses.
A news reporter speaks of the discovery, though the cartel’s involvement is denied by federal authorities.
Surveillance tapes are shown of the cartel leaders placing a call. Taylor and Zavala are putting too much of a spotlight on their business. A hit is placed on them. In the cartel’s eyes, they won’t be missed.
Taylor and Zavala are cruising in the neighborhood when they see the man Zavala fought. For the respect Zavala showed him, the man tells them a hit has been placed on them. Taylor shrugs it off, but the man makes it clear the threat is legitimate. They drive off.
The man is correct though. The hit order has been passed down to Big Evil, La La, and their other soldiers, who are following them. Big Evil wants to do it immediately, but La La urges him to use caution, noting they don’t have the correct weapons to make sure the job will be done right. They cannot fail. Big Evil agrees to wait and get heavier guns to do the job right.
Taylor and Zavala talk. Taylor reveals that Janet is pregnant. Zavala is happy for him.
Big Evil and his crew are waiting on the second floor of an apartment complex. He tells his men that if they do this right, he’s taking them to Vegas.
Suddenly, they see a van run a red light. They give pursuit and the man crashes and runs into an apartment complex. He is one of Big Evil’s men. When Taylor and Zavala come in, Big Evil’s crew shoot at them. Taylor’s radio is destroyed in the process so they cannot call for backup. In a closed space with few exits, they hole up in an apartment and call for backup. However, Big Evil figures out where they are and shoots up the apartment. Taylor tells Zavala that in three seconds, they will lay down suppressive fire, and then escape the complex. They fire their guns and run out, killing one of Big Evil’s men that is lying in wait. They run through the neighborhood and jump a fence, killing another cartel man waiting in his car with a shotgun.
“I think we just killed that guy,” Zavala says.
“Good,” Taylor replies.
They walk cautiously through a long alleyway. A car pulls down, and they think it’s backup, but it’s more cartel men. Taylor shoots the driver but gets shot by a man waiting in the back camper. Zavala kills the man and checks on Taylor. The shot went through his vest and Taylor thinks he is dying. Zavala tries to keep him calm as he screams for help. “Tell Janet I’m sorry, Tell her I fucked up,” Taylor says as he apparently takes his last breath. Zavala is in his shock as he hears something around him. It’s Big Evil, La La, and the rest of his crew. Zavala reaches for his gun and is shot several times in the back, falling on top of his partner. La La spits on him and shoots him a few more times.
Big Evil and his men walk away, defiant when they are surrounded by Sarge and several other officers, who tell them to give up. La La is unwilling and aims her weapon and fires. Sarge and the other officers pepper Big Evil, La La, and the other two cartel men with bullets, killing them. Sarge asks where the hell Taylor and Zavala are. Orozco and her partner find them, both apparently dead and call it in.
We cut to cemetery where a police funeral is taking place. It is for Zavala. Taylor survived, Zavala didn’t. Gabby holds her son and cries, obviously horrified that her newborn son will have to grow up without his father. Taylor is devastated for the lost of his partner and friend and Janet is absolutely crushed, as well. Taylor goes up to give a speech, but can only say, “He was my brother…” too broken up over Zavala’s death.
THE DAY OF THE SHOOTING
For the final scene, we are taken back hours before the Cartel men tried to kill them. Taylor is asking Zavala that if his son had been a girl instead would he let her be a cop. Zavala replies he would teach her how to shoot so she could defend herself as he knows how crazy the world is. Taylor said he would love a daughter.
“Just don’t let her date cops,” Zavala says.
“Oh, she won’t be dating anyone,” Taylor replies.
Zavala then relates a story about the time when Gabby and he were supposed to have sex for the first time. They were at her house and about to do it, when her folks came home. Zavala was naked and had to hide under the bed, and eventually had to listen as Gabby’s parent’s had sex. Taylor howls in laughter, saying it must’ve made it awkward with his future in-laws. Zavala nods his head, as Gabby’s father was a “freak.”
They get a call to investigate something. They take it, and Taylor says, “Let’s go fight crime, buddy,” fist bumping Zavala, smiling. They of course have no clue that in just a few hours, Taylor will lose his best friend, and Gabby will become a widow. The final scene seems to illustrate not only the deep friendship the two had, but that the life of a cop is perilous, with nothing ever being guaranteed or fair.