DIRECTOR: David Ayer

CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Anna Kendrick, Frank Grillo


RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

RATING: ****

Using actors, a hand-held camera and a script, End of Watch gives much more insight into the life of uniformed law enforcement agents than Act of Valor managed with a bigger budget and “real” people.

The action thriller film concentrates on characterisation and offers a realistic look at life on the beat for two young police officers, marked for death after they confiscate a cache of money and guns in a routine traffic stop.

In our modern day world of cameras on cellphones and CCTV everywhere, this film plays out much more naturally than most “reality” based films which “reconstruct” their stories from found footage, even if End of Watch does feature some very professionally filmed found footage.

The hand-held camera shots comes courtesy of police officer Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal), who is studying to become a lawyer and has to do an art elective, so he chooses film studies.

He decides to document his job and persuades his partner Mike Zavala (Peña) to wear a buttonhole camera as they go on the job.

Then there’s the dash mounted cameras in the police cars and even footage from some gangsters who film themselves as they work up the courage to go on a drive-by shooting.

We follow the pair around for months as they go about their business, as Taylor meets a new girlfriend and Zavala becomes a father.

While the story may be rather clichéd – this is after all the stuff of so many buddy cop movies – the charismatic performances from the two leads is what keeps your attention.

Both portray very ordinary people who rise to the occasion, literally putting themselves in harm’s way every day to protect people they don’t know.

Gyllenhaal and Peña have a warm chemistry and come across as genuine friends, verbally sparring with each other like an old couple, completely comfortably and in synch. While they’re not totally adrenalin junkies, they’re honest enough with each other to admit they don’t quite fit into “normal” life either.

Even when the last big action sequence becomes a tad murky and could’ve done with a tighter edit, the emotion between the two is real and keeps you rooting, long past the point of no return.

If you liked … Training Day … you will like this.