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End of Watch

End of Watch

Released 23 November 2012
Director David Ayer

Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Natalie Martinez, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, Cle Sloan
Writer(s) David Ayer

David Ayer, Matt Jackson, John Lesher
Origin United States
Running Time 109 minutes
Genre Crime, drama, thriller
Rating 16

Bad Boys.

David Ayer (Harsh Times, Street Kings) remains firmly in his comfort zone with found footage cop thriller End of Watch, again concerning characters from the tough streets of South Central, LA. Something of a hack, Ayer’s biggest achievement thus far has been as writer of Training Day, a mediocre film elevated by a powerhouse performance from Denzel Washington. Here, he proves that he does have some degree of talent as a director; just needing a fresh format to work with. While the found footage gimmick has become a tired cliché in the horror genre, Ayer applies it to well executed action sequences and the results are engrossing for the most part.

The film provides a snapshot into the lives of two police officer partners, Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Pena), ghetto beat cops who take on the streets of LA in search of the “three major food groups”; money, drugs and guns. Through a tiny camera on his vest, Taylor films their every move for a college project, from car chases and shootouts to routine neighbourhood patrols. It just so happens the violent gangbanging drug crew they come up against also enjoy filming themselves, giving us an insight into that world, while also feeding us information that the protagonists might not be aware of. This serves to heighten tension effectively, culminating in a climactic shootout and an aftermath that unfortunately feels somewhat rushed, at least on an emotional level.

We open with a Cops-esque sequence of a perp car being tailed by the duo, as Taylor makes a slightly contrived voiceover speech about the life of an LAPD officer; "I am fate with a badge and a gun". While the handheld camera adds an element of realism to the action effectively -seamless and never noticeably overbearing- it also gives us a deep insight into the private lives of the officers (the charming Anna Kendrick plays Taylor’s girlfriend), as well as showcasing the unbreakable bond between the two men. But as it sucks us into their world during the action, shots filmed on normal operating cameras in between pull us back out with alarming force, leaving us feel a tad cheated.

Depicting two men married to their job (and sometimes it seems, to each other) required a pair of actors with chemistry that jumps off the screen. The natural camaraderie between Gyllenhaal and Pena is a delight to watch, ranging from banter to deeply personal discussions. Some of the best scenes are confessionals filmed from the dashboard of the patrol car.

While the story it tells is relatively simple, End of Watch is well shot and acted and provides an original take on the street cop world.

- Cathal Prendergast