David Ayer has staked a large claim as the preeminent teller of shady Los Angeles police stories, whether in scripts for others (Training Day, Dark Blue), or films he's directed himself (Harsh Times, Street Kings). While such a narrow field of view can often lead to repetition (or worse, self-parody), Ayer deserves a large amount of credit for finding new entry points with each project. End of Watch
, Ayer's third film as director, introduces a few new wrinkles to the formula, most notably the use of found footage to viscerally convey the moments of crisis (and stretches of tedium) while on the beat. Beginning with an impressively messy chase scene, the film follows a few eventful days in the lives of two officers (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) returning to active duty after a shooting. Any hopes for a routine patrol, however, quickly fade when the two cross the path of a murderous gang leader named Big Evil (Maurice Compte).
Ayer, working in a loose, profane mode that favorably recalls the works of Joseph Wambaugh, does a commendable job at conveying the day-to-day insanity that is a cop's lot in life, with special emphasis on the impossibility of leaving the job at the office. While the handheld-camera approach gives the action scenes a definite queasy charge, the time between shootouts proves just as compelling, due to the convincing friendship between family man Peña and the fiercely single Gyllenhaal, and some terrific supporting turns from Anna Kendrick and The Grey's Frank Grillo. Ultimately, though, the film's best asset may be the filmmaker's decision to paint his protagonists as normal people dedicated to upholding the law, rather than being drawn to the fashionable dark side. For the first time in what seems like a long time, the cops are the good guys. --Andrew Wright
LAPD police officers Brian Taylor and Mike Zavala are bonded by friendship and a crusade to clean up the violent streets of South Central, Los Angeles. Their mission is to serve and protect, their objective is to survive until the end of watch, that last moment in an officer’s patrol when he’s finally off duty. But when a routine traffic enquiry results in them seizing a large cache of weapons, Brian and Mike are marked for death by a notorious drugs cartel. Thrown into a world of mayhem and carnage, both officers are forced to risk their lives in the name of the law.
Directed by David Ayer (Training Day, Street Kings) and starring Jake Gyllenhaal (Source Code) and Michael Peña (Gangster Squad), End of Watch
is a gritty and visceral cop thriller that puts the viewer at the centre of the action.
“One of the all-time great cop films” (Dave Aldridge, BBC Radio 5 Live)
***** The Sun
***** MSN Special Features
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director David Ayer
• Deleted Scenes
• Alternative Ending (Rough Cut)
• Interviews with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña
• BAFTA Q&A with Michael Peña and John Lesher