Monday, 29 October 2012
FILM REVIEW: END OF WATCH
Just as a successful police pairing means being able to rely on your partner, the success of the buddy cop film rests almost entirely on the chemistry between said buddies. Be it Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the Lethal Weapon series, or Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in 21 Jump Street, you need to know that the other guy has got your back.
Thankfully for writer-director David Ayer, his two leads – Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, both in excellent form – have chemistry to burn in End of Watch, a fly-on-the-wall police procedural where the two actors are rarely seen without the other and whose camaraderie is as authentic as it is winning.
Brian Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Pena) are officers in the LAPD, patrolling the streets of south-central Los Angeles in their squad car and always on the lookout for some dangerous action: missing elderly mother, meh. Meth labs and drug cartels? Bring it on! They're a gung-ho duo who take just as much fun (perhaps more) in their work as they do pride, which may rankle some of their colleagues (including David Harbour, Frank Grillo, and a far-from-Ugly Betty America Ferrera) but more often than not gets the job done.
Taylor, for whatever reason (it is never really explained), has taken to shooting their daily patrols on his digi-cam, and has wired himself and Zavala up with mini-cameras so he doesn't miss one bit of the action.
This also captures the fun, frank and at times personal conversations between the two cops, and whether riffing on or ribbing each other, or opening up about their relationships (Zavala has a wife and his first child on the way; Brian has started dating someone special, played by Anna Kendrick), the pair are amusing, engaging and highly likeable.
Not so taken with the duo is the local chapter of a Mexican drug cartel. When Taylor and Zavala cross their paths one too many times, upending drug shipments and a people smuggling operation, a hit is placed on the cops making for an already dangerous life on the beat downright deadly.
The entirety of End Of Watch is shot in a hand-held manner which ultimately proves to be as distracting as it is annoying, not just because of the shakiness of the cinematography (Oz critic David Stratton must have had stroke while watching this), but because Ayer dispenses with the rules of his own conceit not too long into the film.
There are point-of-view shots which can only have been filmed by someone who either does not have a camera (although a lot of people in EOW, including the crims, tend to: the YouTube generation?) or who simply isn't there. No doubt intended to give the pair's life on the beat an immediacy and authenticity, the fly-on-the-wall approach as executed here proves more irritating than enlightening.
But that's a minor quibble. What is impressive about End Of Watch, and the reason you should see it, are the central performances. Gyllenhaal and Pena are a winning combination whose chemistry overcomes any cop film cliches or shaky-cam issues. Whether busting crims or each others' balls, they make for an arresting pair.