Sunday 21 October 2012

End Of Watch (2012) - David Ayer

Fresh from the Toronto Film Festival comes David Ayer's End Of Watch to the BFI's London Film Festival.  It's an intense, raw and gripping LA cop drama featuring Jake Gyllenhaal in his best role since Brokeback Mountain.

"I'm just a badge with a gun", explains Brian (Gyllenhaal) in his opening monologue.  "I might not agree with the law, but I will enforce it".  The film sees Brian and his Mexican partner Mike (Michael Peña) performing routine checks around the city, playing their part in the war against drug smuggling, human trafficking and gang warfare between the racist African-American and Hispanic gangs.  It's all filmed in docu-fiction style by Brian through hand camera and hidden cameras on the lapels of his uniform, presented to the audience as a 'day-in-the-life' type feature.  It may seem implausible to be carrying a camera during the raids, but the found-footage device only adds to the film's visceral edge - any trepidation is soon overlooked.

The film juxtaposes high-octane raids and action with the monotony of day-to-day policework: paperwork (the lifeblood of the force), standing guard and perpetual curb crawling.  "You need comfortable shoes", claims Mike.  The relationship between the two men is richly characterised, their car scenes full of banter and comic dialogue that contrast with the gang warfare rife with racism.  For all the monotony of this work, the film is always engaging, creating two characters we genuinely care for.  Their world is at times glamorous, with gloriously lit cityscapes backed by a hip-hop soundtrack opposed by the nitty-gritty of cop work.

The comic facade and tough guy act is immediately dropped during the action sequences.  It's these scenes that are suitably shocking, violent and gruesome when juxtaposed with the comedy, revealing the horrors these men must endure for their livelihood and the sincerity of their brotherhood.  The visceral cinematography builds to an unparalleled intensity, all wonky camera angles that reflect not only the realism of the piece but the fact this is far from a clean-cut view of the police force.  "This sucks" says Brian at one point, clearly longing for the safety of the office.

With its believable and arresting performances, Ayer has delivered an intense and moving drama that questions the meaning of being a hero.  Our law enforcers are only human after all.


Watch: End Of Watch sees general release in the UK on 23rd November.