Although it may seem as if we have been down this road before – and we have – this particular cop movie has an energy and authenticity to it that makes it stand out from the pack.
Writer/director David Ayer has already ploughed this furrow several times. He wrote Training Day and S.W.A.T., and directed Harsh Times and Street Kings; all of them cop movies that vary from the not bad, to the pretty good. End of Watch takes things to a new level. Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Michael Pena) are best friends and police partners. They drive together, fight together and play together. Brian has a girlfriend (Anna Kendrick) and Mike has a wife (Natalie Martinez) with a baby on the way. They're good at what they do, and enjoy themselves. In fact, they're filming themselves as well.
Then they make what seems a routine bust and they discover they have – as another cop puts it – pulled the tail of a very large snake. That snake is a Mexican snake, and doesn't like being messed with, not even by cops, not even L A cops. So now a dangerous job just became lethal. In some ways this is a conventional narrative, but in fact it is a departure from the norm. There is no single villain played by the usual pony-tailed cliche. There isn't a tough lieutenant with whom they argue.Their family lives are happy, and they have a great time together. In fact, it's their relationship which is the driving force of the film. It's as much a buddy film as a cop movie, if not more, and that is where the strength of the writing and acting comes to the fore.
They are a likeable pair, not least because of their affection for each other, displayed, inevitably via banter. They do their job, behave almost like human beings when the situation allows them to, and – although perhaps a little idealised – seem to have a beneficial effect on the universe. Unlike last year's Rampart, there is no showboating, no false melodrama, or a plethora of plots that never quite fit together. Obviously if you're not a fan of cop movies, you may not be interested, but let me put in a word in this film's favour. It's more than it appears to be.