The words ‘gritty’ and ‘hard-hitting’ are thrown about a bit too much for my liking these days when it comes to discussing films – heck, I’ve probably even done it myself.

But, every so often, a film comes along that not only deserves that title, but almost goes beyond, redefining what you though possible within the genre.

That, my friends, is End Of Watch, a sparkling cop drama that hits so close to home that at times you feel you are watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary.

Sure, casting Jake Gyllenhaal in one of the lead roles does shatter that illusion somewhat, but, to be fair, Gyllenhaal turns in a performance to be proud of.

Jake and Michael Pena play not only LA cop partners but big buddies to boot, with numerous scenes of friendly banter and chit-chat in their patrol car highlighting the pretty impressive chemistry the two actors share.end-of-watch-poster

End Of Watch simply follows the pair about their duties, with a mix of camcorder footage (Gyllenhaal’s Brian Taylor is shooting footage for a course), documentary-style film as well as regular, stand-up cinematic stuff.

The result is a potent mix of in-your-face filmmaking from director David Ayer, who has displayed a knack for this stuff in the past with the likes of Harsh Times and Street Kings.

On paper the whole thing sounds so familiar – the cops bust up a drugs operation, only then to be targeted by a gang of gun-wielding hoods.

But Ayer plays things totally straight, with little glamorisation and it really works.

Yes, there are a couple of high-octane shoot-outs along the way, but as a viewer you never feel like you are watching some glossy, big-budget action flick – quite the opposite in fact.

Ayer throws you right in the middle of the carnage, with one gunfight in particular (in a housing block) a truly magnificent set-piece.

The direction is flawless, the pacing right on the button and the finale is well-judged.

But what really pushes End Of Watch to the next level is the performances and partnership between Taylor and Pena’s Mike Zavala – taking the cop ‘buddy’ movie concept and twisting it into a new shape that provides something really fresh.

You totally buy into their characters and personas, with their dynamic helped by solid displays from their respective partners, Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez.

Police dramas can so often descend into cliché, but when done right (say in the likes of Colors or Rampart), they can grab the screen like few other genres of film.

This is one of those occasions.

 

Extras: 20+ minutes of deleted scenes, an alternate ending that pushes the film into darker territory, fetaurettes, interviews and a Bafta Q&A with Pena and producer John Lesher

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.