Writer-director David Ayer has described his new film
It means Ayer shoots his movie as if compiled from a mixture of "Cops"-style surveillance footage, shot on "dash-cams" inside the patrol car; video shot by the character played by
Key gang-banging adversaries encountered by the cops carry their own cameras and keep nosing in on tense, bloody acts of revenge. Other flashy perspectives come more or less out of nowhere, from no particular perspective, as if Ayer was hired as the unseen tagalong videographer for the latest drive-by. The footage swivels between color and black and white.
It's a full load of self-conscious faux realism for a relatively straightforward outline. Officers Taylor (Gyllenhaal) and Zavala (Pena) are good friends and valiant protectors of the people, though Gyllenhaal's opening voice-over ("I am fate with a badge and gun") indicates that Ayer may forever have one foot in prose and the other in pulp poetry. "End of Watch" proceeds episodically, with Taylor and Zavala crisscrossing paths with an encroaching drug cartel and its street soldiers. Many dead bodies and grisly sights later, amid some fairly effective suspense sequences, we've gotten to know a bit about Zavala's marriage ("I went to prom and got married a week later") and the horn-dog Taylor's romance with the newfound love of his life, played by Anna Kendrick.
Ayer most recently directed the overpacked LAPD drama
The drawback of the film's visual approach, however, is a considerable one. The relentless first-person shooting in "End of Watch" — figurative and literal — is less about YouTube factuality than it is about Xbox gaming reconfigured for the movies. (It's omnipresent, this approach, and it's not going away:
'End of Watch' -- 2 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references, and some drug use)
Running time: 1:49