End Of Watch
Directed by David Ayer. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, Natalie Martinez 16 cert, general release, 109 mins
WHEN DID found footage get so, well, unfound? By now we’re accustomed to seeing unlikely floating cameras and impossible shots dotted across The Devil Inside or the Paranormal Activity sequence.
Now, David Ayers, the director behind Harsh Times and author of such robust urban dramas as Dark Blue, turns in a cop drama with plenty of macho swagger and half a mind to make a found-footage picture.
We’re introduced to upstanding young LAPD go-getter Brian Murphy (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his trusty partner Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) on their rounds as Brian attempts to film for a night-school project.
This framing device is quickly discarded in favour of high-speed sirens, bromance and the duo’s pursuit of a drugs cartel. It’s a cheat, though it does cheat in a manner that enhances the film’s entertainment value.
But wait, you think. This is a gritty David Ayers picture. It’s all well and good watching fine, dedicated officers of the law make extraordinary breakthroughs. One of these chaps must be on the take, right?
The twist in End of Watch is its complete lack of moral ambiguity. Forget Christian Bale’s loose canon in Harsh Times or Denzel Washington’s Oscar-winning turn in the Ayers-penned Training Day. Gyllenhaal and Peña really are the good guys. Brian longs for a smart girl “to talk to” and soon meets post-grad Anna Kendrick. Mike is happily married. No matter how many gold-plated AK-47s and stashes these boys in blue uncover, they’re still prepared to dash into a burning building to save small children.
Ayers’s warmest film to date finds meaning and depth in its “I love you, man” exchanges – well done, Messrs Gyllenhaal and Peña – and rarely goes too long without staging some daring detective work and videogame ultraviolence. The mean streets are no longer a white-on-black battleground: it’s those pesky Mexicans you have to watch out for. Elder African-American street-Gs watch on, sagely and in league with the Thin Blue Line. My, the ’hood’s just not what it used to be.