Director: David Ayer
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, David Harbour, Frank Grillo
Running time: 109 minutes
Following the daily grind of two young police officers in LA who are partners and friends, and what happens when they meet criminal forces greater than themselves.
David Ayer’s thrilling cop drama – described by Exorcist and French Connection director William Friedkin as the “best cop movie ever made” – really surprised me when it sneaked into my top five films of 2012. The trailer does it a massive disservice, making it out to be a cliché, generic, shoot-em-up cop thriller, when in actual fact it’s a profoundly down-to-earth and incredibly realistic depiction of two cops working the dangerous, grubby streets of LA.
The sheer strength of the film comes from the two utterly fantastic central performances by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. Both bring such a stark level of authenticity to their characters, obviously having researched their roles thoroughly, to the point that we sometimes forget we’re actually watching Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena. They switch between the playful banter of their patrol car to the horrific realities of cop life effortlessly, building with their strong chemistry a friendship that has us really care about both of them. We really believe in their friendship and believe that they’re brothers, and ultimately that’s what makes the film so gripping and genuinely moving.
Half of the footage is hand-cam, which isn’t always necessary and sometimes feels a bit forced (Gyllenhaal’s character just happens to be taking a film course, hence the reason he films all the time), but it never detracts too much from the quality of the film. Importantly, it knows when to switch back to the ‘regular’ camera and never forces the hand-cam too much. The only other thing that might get on your nerves is the amount of ‘F bombs’ dropped by a certain Mexican drug gang, but if you can get past that there’s really not much else to fault.
On the technical side of things, the blu-ray conversion is excellent. The picture is crisp and the sound immersive, and it’s well worth paying the extra few duckets for the jump in quality.
End Of Watch draws strength from its characters rather than its action sequences, which is what makes it such a stand out. An incredibly gripping, believable, moving and entertaining piece of work that leaves a lasting impression. A real dark horse.