Found footage has invaded so many genres it was only a matter of time before it reached the cop movie.
It’s the least successful aspect of David Ayer’s latest snapshot of LAPD life, which – like Chronicle, [REC] et al – claims to be stitched together (by whom?) from disparate sources that miraculously dovetail to create a seamlessly coherent narrative.
But once you get past this overused framing device, End Of Watch – named after the term Los Angeles’ finest sign off with at the end of their shifts – emerges as a highly watchable, authentic-seeming portrait of day-to-day policing from the perspective of two patrolmen on the mean streets of South Central.
OK, so the box-ticking combo of Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) – cocky, lusty, reckless risk-taker – and Mike (Michael Peña) – married, cautious, expectant father – comes straight from the Lethal Weapon book of clichés.
Yet the pair’s credible rapport goes a way towards dispelling the whiff of familiarity, the stars basing their numerous scenes of shitshooting and chain-yanking in an affecting bromance and mutual respect.
It’s not all man-love of course. There are also car chases, house fires and gang-related drug busts, one of which puts Officers Taylor and Zavala on a Mexican cartel’s hit list.
As luck would have it, the heavily tattooed foot soldiers gunning for our heroes carry camcorders too, a contrivance that comes in handy during a climactic, nocturnal face-off shown from the viewpoint of both prey and predator.
Unfortunately they are also used to record their own car-bound banter – swaggering, profanity-strewn verbiage that is entirely lacking the heart and humour of the Peña/Gyllenhaal interplay.
What does surprise is that a filmmaker renowned for trashing the fuzz’s reputation should be no less capable of honouring it.
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Forceful and arresting, Ayer’s follow-up to Harsh Times and Street Kings sees him confidently playing to his strengths.