Dir: David Ayer, 2012
Young guns Taylor and Zavala police the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles albeit with smiles on their faces. They suddenly begin to find themselves in over their heads when they uncover traces of a dangerous drug cartel who don’t take kindly to curious cops.
Training Day, Dark Blue, Street Kings. David Ayer is no stranger to penning tales regarding police corruption – which makes his latest outing all the more interesting as he showcases the honour and dedication that exists within the LAPD. Choosing his regular turf of South Central L.A., Ayer’s intention is not storytelling as much as documenting. Filmed on location and reinforced by actors who endured five months of police training, End of Watch is to law enforcement what Cathy Come Home is to social structure.
The film wears the disguise of plenty of buddy-cop movies before it – two cops who stumble onto an investigation that is bigger than they could imagine. The difference with End of Watch is neither an array of explosive developments nor fantastical set-pieces follow suit. The honesty of both the characters and the story drive the film forward, avoiding withdrawals the likes of platitudes or perplexities.
End of Watch’s success hinges on the superb chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Peña, which carries the film from the genre wasteland of found footage to the outskirts of the classic cop caper. The characters may have the qualities of your stereotypical police partners but they aren’t heroes, which only serves to make them more relatable. However, the seldom scenes that don’t involve Gyllenhaal and Peña on duty are more dull than others and the portrayal of the near-voiceless evil that is the dreaded Mexican cartel seems unnecessary for the amount of screen time the antagonists get. Still, these remain the only hiccups in an otherwise cracking effort by Ayer, who shoots End of Watch like an up-close and personal episode of Cops without falling into the visual disarray exhibited in most found footage features.
Ayer’s cinematic style employed in End of Watch separates it from his previous features whilst creating a more emphatic agenda than Ayer has ever before implied. A simple yet effective docu-thriller that is backed up by inspired performances from two flourishing actors.
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆