Cop drama rings true

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

Gyl­len­haal plays good-na­tured LAPD of­fi­cer Brian Tay­lor, whose ev­er­p­re­sent video cam­era sets up the premise that we’re view­ing a found-footage film, in End of Watch. Brian drags his half-dressed squad-car part­ner Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) into the frame in the locker room and the way Mike el­bows his way back out again sets the tone for the pair’s foul­mouthed ma­cho bick­er­ing. They’re a good cop-good cop team on the hot, hard streets of South Cen­tral. The film has an ap­peal­ing way of un­der­cut­ting po­lice thriller cliches. Mike would usu­ally be a sup­port­ing player, with Brian tak­ing the lead. Here, the Mex­i­can-Amer­i­can isn’t the side­kick. He’s savvier, mar­ried, with a kid on the way, un­der­lin­ing his sta­tus as a ma­ture fig­ure with re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Nei­ther guy is the other’s comic re­lief. They’re both cut-ups when the mood is light and heart-at­tack se­ri­ous oth­er­wise. Both are good at their work. Both feel a ten­sion be­tween their home life and the job. Anna Ken­drick plays Brian’s sup­port­ive but con­cerned girl­friend; Natalie Martinez is Mike’s feisty preg­nant wife, and the do­mes­tic de­tails ring true. Pena sub­merges him­self seam­lessly into his tough, soul­ful, funny role, while Gyl­len­haal looks less like he’s play­ing a cop and more like he might be one. When the ac­tion shifts into over­drive as a Mex­i­can car­tel tar­gets the part­ners, we’re deeply in­vested, mak­ing the vivid vi­o­lence more than empty thrills. While Ro­man Vasyanov’s tur­bu­lent cin­e­matog­ra­phy of­ten cap­tures van­tage points no carry-along cam­era could record, the vir­tu­oso hand­held chase scenes, shoot­ings and car wrecks are elec­tric with ur­gency. Fe­ro­ciously gritty and un­sen­ti­men­tally tough, End of Watch is a run­ning bat­tle be­tween the ide­al­ism of its ur­ban peace­keep­ers and fa­tal­ism about the abil­ity of a small blue mili­tia to pacify war-zone Los Angeles. The ac­tors’ out­stand­ing work in spasms of fe­roc­ity and mo­ments of gen­tle­ness makes the film a vic­tory of craft over cliches.

opens to­day.

Jake Gyl­len­haal and Anna Ken­drick star in the gritty

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