The writer of the Oscar winning smash hit Training Day, returns with another gritty police thriller set in South Central LA, but with a Denzel Washington-shaped hole where the charisma should be.
Writer and director David Ayer, shot entirely on location in fidgety, semi-documentary, police-cam video style, creating a loud and tense gun and drug movie where the highest ambition police officers have is to survive their shift and have their timesheet signed off, End Of Watch.
Jake Gyllenhaal and Mike Zavala Michael Pena are patrol car partners who come across a safe house belonging to a Mexican cartel who immediately put a price on their heads for disrupting their lucrative drugs trade.
The cops aren’t the brightest guns on the street but they are mostly honest and unquestioningly brave. Patrolling is a series of verbal abuse, brutal fist fights and vicious gun battles, and even the music is aggressive.
Off duty, Anna Kendrick and Natalie Martinez provide strong acting support as their wives, with America Ferrera and Frank Grillo as their fellow officers.
Watching this film is like being trapped for two hours in a small steel cage with a pair of uniformed, squabbling, slurping, chattering caffeinated kids, before being released on a regular basis to be shot at by angry Uzi abusing gangsters.
Ayer doesn’t wholly commit to his handheld format which reduces its authenticity, and the last two scenes are unnecessary and lessen the films impact.
Despite this the two officers hold your sympathy and attention because although they’re not as interesting or entertaining as the film believes they are, even the most basic police work involves being screamed and shot at.
Their wives are the only lightness in their lives and in the movie and are a sweet and sassy counterpoint to the constant aggravation the men experience on duty.
This is a portrait of a city in a state of siege, and the only advice the script can offer is to wear comfortable shoes and a bulletproof vest.