Reviews

End Of Watch

3

A police drama that doesn’t cop out

If you can be bothered with the five bonus featurettes, each lasting a whopping two minutes yet still managing to tread on each other’s toes, the theme that arises, repeatedly, is veracity.

“We’ve seen what Hollywood think they [cops] do at work. This movie is the reality of it,” promises writer-director David Ayer. Jake Gyllenhaal, meanwhile, talks of six months of 4pm-4am ride-alongs, of fight training, of creating a “360-degree environment”.

It pays off. Ayer, of course, is the man behind Training Day, Dark Blue, Harsh Times and Street Kings, a longtime chronicler of LA’s finest (and, alas, dirtiest).

End Of Watch is perhaps his best. It’s certainly his most jagged and immediate, the action collided together from a cluster of camcorders, dash-cams and uniform-mounted cameras no bigger than a packet of cigarettes.

Plot takes a backseat as partners Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) cruise South Central, their banter punctuated by chases, shootouts, house fires and busting down doors.

And while the ricocheting action finds some sort of direction when Taylor finds romance (a small role for Anna Kendrick) and the boys stumble upon a Mexican cartel, the focus here is very much friendship, loyalty and - how’s this for a u-turn? - integrity.

Intriguingly, Ayer connects the found footage with shots that record events from fathomless angles. This has been seen as a cheat, just as District 9 and Chronicle cheated when circumstances dictated.

But so blatant is the breaking of the rules - there are even God’s-eye shots skimming between skyscrapers - that it seems Ayer is fusing techniques and traditions in the way Eduardo Sánchez did for Lovely Molly.

It works, adding to the messiness of it all. Twenty-four minutes of deleted scenes offer more cruising and combat, and Ayer’s ear for dialogue is again in evidence: “Go home and eat a bowl of dicks” is just one highlight.

Most interesting, though, is the alternative ending, correcting as it does End Of Watch’s single moment of fraudulence. A director’s commentary and interviews round out a solid package, with Gyllenhaal and Peña stressing the boots-on-the-groundwork that went into constructing a credible friendship.

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