Arts And Culture

How accurate is the portrayal of Newton in 'End of Watch'?

Oct. 8, 2012, 12:33 p.m.

Michael Peña, left, and Jake Gyllenhaal, right, star as Officers Mike Zavala and Brian Taylor, respectively, in the film "End of Watch." (Open Road Films)

Southside residents who saw the movie "End of Watch" may have recognized some of the street signs and names that set the scene for the film.

That's because the cop flick, which features Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, takes place in the LAPD's Newton Division.

Gyllenhaal plays a Newton cop who chronicles his work on the streets of South Los Angeles with a video camera. He and his partner, played by Peña, get caught in the crosshairs of the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel, after they go beyond the call of duty and interfere with the crime organization's South L.A. operation.

Sergeant Todd Bogart works in the real-life Newton, and saw a private screening film before it was released to the general public with most of the other officers in the division.

"I thought it was a very well-written movie," he said. "It was very realistic in terms of the relationship between [Gyllenhaal and Peña]. The way they carry on in conversation – it really highlighted that closeness that partners share, working day in and day out under very stressful conditions."

That was Bogart's favorite part of the movie – the way Gyllenhaal and Peña nailed the (often merciless) ribbing and joking that takes places among partners, and the closeness that forms between them.

"The movie really captured the essence of two street cops who work in any LAPD division, but particularly in Newton," he said. "Officers tend to be really close or develop really positive relationships with each other in the field. That really and truly exists."

Bogart said other parts, though, were pretty sensationalized.

For example, Newton is portrayed in the movie as the Newton of old – one of the most dangerous and deadliest divisions of the LAPD. Bogart worked in Newton 10 years ago when violence was "very high," particularly when it came to gangs. But now, he said, both crime and the murder rate is "very low" – extraordinarily so, he added.

"To go from 10 years ago to where we're at now – it's just an incredible downturn in crime," he said. "I think the movie portrays a lot of the reputation, a lot of the history of Newton. It incorporates the history of the division until now. It's still one of the busier places to work, and it still has a high potential for violence, but right now we're seeing very low numbers of violent crimes."

The cartel element in the movie was central – one graphic scene in the movie showed a house that served as an apparent torture chamber owned by cartel affiliates. The violent antagonists themselves are working for the cartel, attempting to exact revenge on Gyllenhaal and Peña's characters for interfering in their South L.A. infrastructure.

But all of that, said Bogart, "was pretty sensationalized."

Another scene shows the partners arriving to a man's apartment to respond to a complaint that he was drunk and disorderly. The man and Peña's character get into a heated argument, which culminates in their challenging to each other to a fight. Peña takes off his badge and gun, and says if he wins, the man has to cuff himself. Gyllenhaal's character laughs and eggs them on, filming the entire ordeal.

That's breaking a lot of rules, both in the movie and real-life version of Newton.

"I've never seen that [happen]," said Bogart. "The officers I work with and the officers who work for me know the dangers of putting themselves in that position. If in fact that did occur, that would be misconduct that would be dealt with by the department. Nobody's doing that kind of stuff."

Bogart also said if a police officer wanted to keep a video diary of his or her work the way Gyllenhaal's character did, they'd need written permission and would need to "follow a policy that's set forth by the department."

But it's a movie, and it made no claim to journalistic accuracy, so sensationalism is to be expected. Besides, said Bogart, it's neat to see a movie set in a place you spend most of your waking moments. He said the opening car chase scene, filmed from the perspective of the police car, was his favorite.

"You see they're going up Hooper Avenue, and I recognize all those buildings, the houses and stuff," he said. "That's a really cool scene. It really set the tone for the movie: action-packed, nostalgic Newton Division cinematography."

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