End Of Watch * * * *
Director: David Ayer.
Screenplay: David Ayer.
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, David Harbour, Cody Horn, Maurice Compte, Diamonique.
David Ayer certainly seems to know his way around South Central Los Angeles: He delivered the screenplay to the Oscar winning “Training Day” in 2001 before making his directorial debut, four years later, with “Harsh Times“. The James Ellroy adaptation “Street Kings” followed, and with his latest being yet another foray into those crime-ridden L.A. ghettos this is confirmation of Ayer’s comfort zone.
L.A. cops Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) routinely patrol the streets and neighbourhoods of South Central. These guys aren’t just partners but good friends and they both take their jobs very seriously. It’s the strong bond between them that allow them to effectively deal with life threatening situations every day. But through their absolute commitment to their work, they discover a violent drugs cartel that puts both their lives in danger.
Anyone familiar with the aforementioned films that Ayer has been involved in, will know that he has a propensity to focus a lot on the interplay of his characters; mainly this is done in the car, allowing the audience to get a closer proximity to the back and forth banter and camaraderie. Where this film differs though, is in the use of a found footage/steady-cam approach. This particular style may be wearing thin with a lot of people (myself included) but for the most part, it works here. Following a couple of cops on the beat adds another angle to the sub-genre that’s not been explored yet and taps into the voyeuristic nature of the reality tv shows that we’re bombarded with these days. I’ve never really been a fan of these neo-fascist, propaganda shows that depict the police carrying out their duties but sometimes they can be intriguing and many find them very appealing. However, Ayer is smart enough not to rely solely on this ‘reality’ approach; he intercuts it with wide-angles whenever the documentary vibe is unsuitable, which gives a good overall balance to the action. That being said, the film does suffer periodic lulls and falls prey to cliche with underwritten and stereotypical gangsters but it’s the rapport between Gyllenhaal and Peña that keep the film interesting and involving. Both deliver solid performances and their exchanges of dialogue are entirely believable and, at times, genuinely humorous.
The steady-cam now makes it’s way into the mainstream with some financial backing and familiar faces involved. It may irritate some but ultimately adds a sense of realism that’s required for the material. Once you accept the conceit, the rest is an intense, visceral and action filled movie.