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End of Watch (AF)

7/10

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña, Natalie Martinez, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour, Frank Grillo, America Ferrera, Cle Sloan, Jaime Fitzsimmons, Cody Horn, Shondrella Avery, Everton Lawrence

Director: David Ayer

Los Angeles isn’t all Hollywood glitz and glamour and ego-driven actors admiring their stars on Hollywood Boulevard and themselves in every available mirror. It also has its dark side cheerfully celebrated in the cinema.

Writer-director Ayer’s grim and gritty picture of crime and punishment on the streets of South L.A. (where he grew up) belongs firmly in the latter category. It’s essentially a buddy movie centred on police officers Gyllenhaal and Peña whose patrols of South L.A. usually involve danger, death and most kinds of crime, all pictured (often rather vertiginously) using POV camerawork that while it draws you right into the action and certainly impresses on a technical level can rather too frequently also induce a tad of dizziness.

Ayer kicks off fast with a car chase that ends in crashes and a shootout and maintains a fairly high dramatic temperature from then on as he presents a scabrous and scarifying slice of life among the poor and underprivileged where “Blacks resent Hispanics” and “Hispanics shoot Blacks”. The lives of the policemen are not much less fraught as they try to find a balance between the darkness of their work and the (relative) lightness of their private lives: Peña is married, while shaven-headed Gyllenhaal is headed that way.

While there’s nothing unique or groundbreaking here, End of Watch gains impact from both the performances of Gyllenhaal and Peña – their bromance is painfully credible - and the bleak and bitter picture it paints of crime and punishment on the streets, with key characters that are credible and flawed and not simply the usual flashy Hollywood stereotypes.

Their Captain’s description of the police as, “The thin-blue-line, protecting the prey from the predators, the good from the bad” is excitingly and convincingly proved.

And Ayer's non-stop use of the 'F' word is impressive enough to turn even the most trendy Channel 4 commissioning editor bright green with envy.

Alan Frank

USA 2012. UK Distributor: StudioCanal. Colour by deluxe.
108 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 3, Drugs 2, Swearing 3.

Review date: 24 Nov 2012