End of Watch, BFI London Film Festival
Wednesday 10 October 2012
LA cop movies, with their gritty downtown drug busts and sun-drenched shots of palm trees, are an integral part of American cinema. And David Ayer should know - he has made several, his first being Training Day, which he wrote and which won Denzel Washington an Oscar, and the latest of which is End of Watch, which he wrote and directed.
Like many of Ayer's films, End of Watch takes place in the murky mean streets of South Central Los Angeles. But although it finds itself in the same precinct as its predecessors, this film inhabits another world entirely. Gone are the corrupt cops and high-octane car chases. In their stead are Taylor and Zavala (Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña), two risk-taking but down-to-earth bobbies on the beat - and best friends to boot - "street kings" whose days consist of patrolling gangland Los Angeles. The bad guys here are definitely not the boys in blue.
There's plenty going on, from rescuing children from crack dens to busting drivers with golden guns ("Liberace's AK"). But for the most part the story unfolds with a kinetic yet somehow unhurried pace.
These are men with a life too and episodic scenes of police action are interspersed with lengthier ones of playful repartee within the car, of Taylor falling in love with his wife-to-be (a scatty Anne Kendrick), of the men promising to take care of each other's families. Both Gyllenhaal and Peña are at their best here. Their conversations are so breezy they feel like improv (they aren't).
Things do kick up a notch after an unwise house-call by the boys lands them in hot water with the local drug cartel, but the film still takes its time. Bad Boys, this ain't.
Although the now ubiquitous use of hand-held camera footage does lend some scenes a visceral, gritty quality, this feels like a gimmick that is wisely, if crudely, abandoned in the second act. What really makes this film so impressive is its commitment to characterisation in a genre that does not usually care for it.
The scenes of seemingly innocuous banter top everything else for sheer likeability. In one, a seamless combination of clever scripting and relaxed delivery, the two men, one white, one hispanic, exchange affectionate cultural jibes, and in doing so dismantle between them all the ethnic barriers that the gangland ghettos surrounding them have built up. It's a masterful moment.
This is the thinking man's action movie, a cop flick that takes us off the beaten track. Above all, though, it is a bromance. And a very funny one at that.
Public screenings: 11, 13, 21 October, www.bfi.org.uk/lff
Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Alan Rickman admits editing 'terrible' script with friends in Pizza Hut behind backs of writers on Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
- 2 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 3 US? China? India? The 10 biggest economies in 2030 will be...
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
- 5 Rebecca Francis accuses Ricky Gervais of using 'influence' to target female hunters after receiving barrage of death threats
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Doctor Who film will definitely happen, leaked Sony emails reveal
Glastonbury 2015 tickets: How to make sure you’re successful in Sunday's re-sale
The Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer has leaked – watch
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling