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Film review: End Of Watch (15)

A SORT of Boswell to the LAPD, over the last decade David Ayer has logged a new cop drama every couple of years, starting with the Oscar-winning Training Day.

Director: David Ayer

Running time: 109 minutes

* * * *

Usually his interest lies in the pairing of bad cop/rookie cop, bad cop/worse cop, or wannabe cop who is so bad (Christian Bale in Harsh Times) that even the rottenest squad says no thanks.

End Of Watch represents a shift to the other end of the spectrum, since it focuses on decent Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his equally valiant partner Mike Zavala (Michael Peña). Together they banter their way around a beat that involves domestic disputes, halting rowdy parties and rescuing babies from burning houses. However, every once in a while they stumble across something big – like a cage full of parched immigrants in a hitman’s home. These finds earn them medals and citations, but also the enmity of a vicious drug cartel. How unpleasant are its gangsters? They address each other as Big Evil and Demon. So quite unpleasant, or at least so insecure about their badassness that they need to flag it up endlessly.

You may have other questions too, and one of the main ones is: why are these guys so keen to make a movie about themselves? Most of End Of Watch is supposed to have been recorded by Taylor and Zavala themselves because Taylor is taking evening classes at film school. His superiors aren’t happy about the home videos, and I’m not sure I am either. For one thing it means a lot of shoogly, hard-to-watch footage. For another, instead of heightening realism, it’s fatally distracting. Does Brian intend multitasking like this, even in shootouts? Yes, he does. And why do the bad guys decide to film their side of things too? Is there a crime special coming up for You’ve Been Framed? And what about the bits that nobody could have filmed, like the aerial views? There are probably a lot more points to ponder here, but I was too busy being impressed by the battery life everyone was ­getting.

As the cops head out on another patrol, it’s obvious that there’s nothing very new or profound in End Of Watch, and yet that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. In fact, the best times are spent with Gyllenhaal and Peña chaffing each other in their patrol car and shooting the breeze. There is a woman in each character’s background, but Pena’s wife, and the girl (Anna Kendrick) that Gyllenhaal meets and falls for in a tax-avoiding coffee chain, are really just there to take care of any post-screening discussions about the nature of the guys’ bromance. Mind you, Pena and Gyllenhaal are so relaxed and playful together, you can’t help thinking that a more interesting film for Ayer would be a police partnership where they really are a couple. «

 

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