Tag Archives: David Ayer

Monday Movie Review: ‘End of Watch’ (2012).

Buddy cop films have been around since the dawn of time – not literally but you get my drift. A list that is seemingly endless when we consider flicks such as ‘Turner and Hooch’,’ K-9’, ‘Bad Boys’, ‘Lethal Weapon’, ‘Dragnet’ and so on. I have barely scraped the surface with that little lot, and in amongst this genre have been some fantastic blockbuster movies, carving lasting characters in to our memories, most notably probably being the ‘Lethal Weapon’ series.

Today’s movie review is a stark change from the norm, thus far I have re-opened case files on some older favourites of mine, but today I am going to be current. Excited? You should be a bit.

As touched on in last week’s ‘Wednesday Watch’, the general public (although mostly moronic), possess an infatuation with Police and their day to day experiences. Unfortunately, thanks to below par television and wildly creative but ultimately bullshit movies, the general public only get a skewed version of patrol life.

Thankfully, every once in a while, a movie like ‘End of Watch’ explodes on to the screen and re-invigorates and re-imagines how Police can be portrayed on the silver screen. Before I go in to full gush mode, let me just say this is in my top five films of 2012.

I had very high expectations going in and was relieved that my early optimism was not misplaced. David Ayer, the director, is a chap I have grown a true affinity for over the last decade. His first foray into plod territory came in the brilliant ‘Training Day’, before moving on to the below the radar but equally fantastic ‘Harsh Times’. Mostly, his stories are punchy, affecting, and original and contain fractured characters that are very well rounded and believable. Much of this same is contained in ‘End of Watch’.

‘End of Watch’ marks Ayer’s directorial debut, the script was written over a period of days and the entire production process was speedily wrapped up in just over 18 months. Similarly, the narrative rockets along and rarely lets up marking an interesting parallel with the original creative process. The film feels urgent and fizzes along with a frantic energy.

https://i0.wp.com/www.ppsf.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/End-of-Watch_05.jpg

Initially, the jumpy handheld nature of the filming is jarring and not particularly comfortable but this is smoothed out as the characters develop and the action ratchets up. The glue that holds all this frenetic energy together is the truthful relationship between the two protagonists, Brian Taylor (Jake Gylenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena). As we dip in and out of the myriad of action set pieces, much screen time is spent within the confines of their patrol car. The two leads bullshit each other and discuss their deficiencies, families and deepest concerns. Whilst there is a slight overuse of “bro” talk, Ayer’s script deftly brings the viewer into this private arena and consequently allows us to understand both men, who are at the end of the day, simply humans doing a job.

These interchanges between the very likeable characters are the highlights of the film, which is a huge compliment considering how excellent the action is. Essentially, each grizzly incident that Taylor and Zavala come across is handled expertly. The shaky cam adds another angle to proceedings and throws the viewer full force in to the throng of the gun-fights. Interspersed with the violence are several disturbing locations that the two officers happen upon and they leave a memorable impression The film is shot in a similar vein to something Michael Mann might produce given the same subject matter, the colours are vibrant and much of the action is under the cover of darkness only elevating the atmosphere of fear and tension.

I am not going to say that everything rings true though. One particular scene where Pena’s character has a brawl with a local hoodlum was a little contrived and pushed the limits of believability. Plus, the third act dices with blockbuster standards of action. But, the film gets away with this and that is down to the work put in to develop the characters early on and also the way in which those set-pieces are delivered. This is not Michael Bay.

Gylenhaal and Pena are excellent throughout. You can tell that the prior research put in has been taken seriously and the performances that they put in are of the highest quality, with particular credit to Gylenhaal. It’s great to see this fine actor in something vital again, after turgid blockbuster fayre like ‘The Prince of Persia’. He excels here and is ably supported by the accomplished Pena.

As the credits began to roll, I felt a genuine warmth for what had proceeded, without ruining the ending it is difficult to translate my emotions but I cared for the characters, in the same way I cared for Christian Bale’s doomed character in ‘Harsh Times’. I will continue to watch Ayer’s career with great interest.

David Ayer, congratulations, you have done ‘the job’ proud.

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Wednesday Watch: ‘Southland’.

Is there a more pillaged genre than the cop drama?

I’d wager my modest savings (half a curly-wurly and a full collection of Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles commemorative coins), that there is not. Either side of the pond, channels and networks are swamped with carbon copy Police guff, offering up the same trite, clichéd, grizzled tales.

There was public outrage and lynching’s post cancellation of ITV bull-shit fest, ‘The Bill’ – which only emphasises how starved of decent Police drama us Brits have been. Not only was it crap telly, ‘The Bill’ and similar shows were offensive to the regular bobby. With ‘creative’ liberties taken in order to shit out an easily digestible half hour of brainless television. This was not the Police – not at all.

Rarely, are we party to true brilliance on television, even more so when tales of the daily exploits of the Police are involved. The last evidence of this was HBO’s ‘The Wire’. Not only was this unrivalled in terms of its storytelling, character development and honesty, David Simon’s creation happened to be arguably the best television show ever committed to film -that or ‘The Sopranos’.

To stand tall amongst the dross takes a great deal of ingenuity and bravery. Thankfully, in the wake of shows like ‘The Wire’, a vibrant and more urgent approach has been adopted to television, and no more so than in the fantastic ‘Southland’.

‘Southland’ follows the capers of South LA beat police. Each hour long episode intertwines several narratives leading to a climatic finale, much like any drama, but it is the style in which this is delivered to the viewer that sets ‘Southland’ apart from the baying crowd.

The show is shot in a now familiar documentary style and the broken, bloodied streets of South L.A are comprised of a vibrant palette of colours. The production is slick and impatient, forcing the viewer in to the searing heat of the conflicts that are so readily and frequently pelted in the face of the officers.

It is uncomfortable at times, incredibly gory and also tremendously moving. The relationships are believable, with due diligence paid to the monotonous nature of modern Policing and the relationships that are built over long night shifts and brutal early turns. You are in that patrol car with the characters and therefore it is difficult to not empathise and become emotionally attached to them as a result.

This is cemented by a fine array of character actors making up the cast with no outright ‘stars’ to distract, but more a collection recognisable faces from this show or that film you have seen. This works in favour of the show, building upon the everyman nature of the characters.

Michael Cudlitz is the pick of a very talented bunch as veteran senior beat officer ‘John Cooper’ – a ruthlessly by the book officer who nurses a painkiller addiction and complicated private life. It may sound cliché on paper but on screen this is electric, important television and the characters are clearly defined and expertly drawn out.

As television continues to push boundaries and bleed into film, ‘Southland’ leads the charge. It is criminally under viewed but critically lauded. This is cult television at its strongest.

Yes, that is the chap from ‘The O.C’.

‘Southland’s’ footprint can also be seen in this week’s fine cinema release, ‘End of Watch’ (to be reviewed Monday), that also utilises similar cinematography and is stooped in an immediate and frantic style. It is unsurprising that David Ayer, the director adopted this style to the film, ‘the job’ needs to be documented that way for the sheer danger and unpredictability to be translated truthfully to the screen. Take note BBC.

Four seasons in and the show has survived massive budget cuts and countless threats of cancellation, similar to the heritage of ‘The Wire’. Yet, in the face of this adversity, ‘Southland’ has improved immeasurably, continuing to shock and move on a weekly basis. This is now important television and can be mentioned in the same whiskey soaked breath as ‘Hill Street Blues’ or NYPD Blue’. If you have the smallest interest in TV drama or Police, do get involved.

‘Southland’ can be seen on More Four or picked up on DVD/Blu-ray.

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