From the director of Harsh Times and Street Kings it’s fair to expect a gritty cop offering; and so it more than proves to be the case in David Ayer’s third LA takedown.
Using the found footage/docu style, Ayer really takes it down to the mean streets of south central LA once more to spend days in the life of two of the City’s finest, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena.
After a number of disturbing busts the blues “roll up” on something far bigger that puts them on a collision course with a dangerous drug cartel.
End of Watch feels gritty and authentic aided largely by Gyllenhaal and Pena’s superb buddy play and excellent performances.
Complimenting each other perfectly Gyllenhaal’s cocksure, recording officer Taylor leads Pena’s family man Zavala through a mix of bravery, duty and ambition into a variety of escalating encounters that bring recognition, exuberance but growing naivety.
Ayer’s practicing of the handheld capture serves to make EOW feel original; it may borrow from his own and other movies past but when taking the best of what has come before and effectively rolling them into a fresh new style the result is a gripping, often suffocating close up of the real heat on the streets of LA.
Ayers broadens the view too by not completely relying on the first person view from body mounted and dashboard cameras which work superbly to create disorientation and claustrophobia, but when called on he takes it out with standard wider shots. Bridging shots across the searing night and day and plan view tracks capture the sprawling scale of LA’s mean streets; but while mixing it up, perhaps in an attempt to get away from the inevitable handheld motion sickness (I was getting woozy) the varied styling sometimes becomes inconsistent and even more frenetic to the point of distraction.
Focussing largely on the blue daily grind Ayer still takes the opportunity to widen the scope over Copland, adequately fleshing out other blue bloods showing camaraderie and rivalry within the south central precinct as well as the life and loves outside with Natalie Martinez and Anna Kendrick superb also as Wife and Girlfriend.
Ample time is also given to show developments from the criminal perspective; they too have a camera, but the clichéd crims are immensely annoying and exhaustingly profane.
Style inconsistencies and paper thin hoods stop End of Watch being an instant cop classic but with energetic direction and believable main characters it’s an exhilarating new take on the cop drama that oozes dynamism and atmosphere.