In New Action Film 'End of Watch,' Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña Take You on a Thrilling Ride

PHOTO: Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal patrol the mean streets of Los Angeles in their new action thriller, End of Watch.Scott Garfield/Open Road Films
Michael Peña and Jake Gyllenhaal patrol the mean streets of Los Angeles in their new action thriller, End of Watch.

Remember when we showed you the trailer for End of Watch a few weeks ago and we were skeptical? That's until we saw it. It's always better when a trailer grossly undersells a film and you end up pleasantly surprised as opposed to the other way around.

The urban police drama, out today, is shot almost entirely on handheld HD cameras and takes you on a thrilling ride through the scariest streets of South Central Los Angeles, where bloody (we're talking severed heads-type bloody) wars are being fought every day between the Mexican cartels and law enforcement. Things get even messier when you factor in rival street gangs (black and Latino) dabbling in drug and human trafficking.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña play rookie LAPD officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala, who soon realize the price they and their families are forced to pay for the lives they chose. It's as much a story about friendship and loyalty as it is an accurate depiction of just how real it is out there for L.A. cops (the good ones) and those on the other side of the law.

If you loved Training Day, you'll appreciate End of Watch. David Ayer wrote both, and he also directed the latter.

We had a few minutes with the boys earlier this week, before they got suited up for the Hollywood premiere of the movie, where they were joined by America Ferrera (who plays a fellow officer in their unit), Anna Kendrick (who plays Gyllenhaal's girl), and Natalie Martinez (who plays Peña's wife).

Check out what Jake had to say about growing up in a much different L.A. than the one seen in the movie, and how it feels to be an honorary Latino.

What was your perception of the drug war and the job these cops have every day on the streets of L.A. before you began this movie versus now?

Jake Gyllenhaal: Oh, it's a world of a difference. When you see a police officer on the street, there's a stigma, it's like a Batsuit. Even when you put it on, it feels that way. When you see them, they project a whole lot of things out into the world just wearing that uniform. After spending five months on the street with police officers, the sheriff's department, LAPD, two to three times a week doing ride-alongs from 4 in the afternoon to 5 in the morning, and then doing SWAT-type tactical training, after all these experiences, but particularly being on the street – [you realize] it's a tough job. You have to respond first to situations you can handle, situations you can't handle, and in the case of these two officers [Taylor and Zavala], they run into situations that are way beyond their jurisdiction. It completely transformed my idea of law enforcement, but it also completely transformed my idea of Los Angeles in general. I grew up in a much smaller part of L.A. that, after making this movie, I don't even consider to be L.A. anymore. L.A. is where we were [in the movie].

Michael Peña: And that's what we wanted. We wanted to show something fresh, something that you don't necessarily see everyday. There's things that are in the news that they hear of, there's characters that they don't necessarily know, but they want to know. For me those were curiosities. Also, the way we shot it, lends itself to a more improvisational-looking style.

Yeah, it's almost like reality TV.

MP: Only it's better, because there's actually a good story with good dialogue. We wanted people to feel as if they're in a ride-along themselves, inside the movie.

I think it's safe to say there's a bromance brewing here. Was there instant chemistry?

MP: I wouldn't say instant. He grew up way differently than I did, so it took me a little bit to warm up.

Jake, you're an honorary Latino now. You do the Mexican zapateo dance in the film and I saw you at the ALMA Awards red carpet. You held your own!

JG: Am I an honorary Latino? Wait, no. Really? Are you just saying that? Cause I take that very seriously, so don't just throw that out there.

I declare you, as of this moment, an honorary Latino.

JG: Can you do that?

Of course I can. I can do anything I want!

JG: Ok. Wow, thank you…

How does it feel to be embraced by the community?

JG: It's really amazing. I've now had the opportunity to work with some incredibly talented Latino actors and be completely immersed in the culture at times. It was an honor to even be let into the world, you know. We used to joke on set, 'I bet you get to present at the ALMA Awards after you do this movie' and then I did! So I have to say it was a real honor for me and to be with him there at the ALMA's, with him not being embarrassed to be seen with me.

MP: Not at all! He's such a good buddy and such a good person at heart that I'm glad he came. He fully embraced it, too. There are some things you do because you're an actor, but he was genuinely into it, asking questions. He was really interested.

The real test will be if you can party with us! We'll see, let's have you work on that.

JG: Alright, alright. That's true, by the way.

MP: Yeah, me and all my Latino friends, we party, like party.