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End Of Watch review

Found footage has invaded so many genres it was only a matter of time before it reached the cop movie.

It’s the least successful aspect of David Ayer’s latest snapshot of LAPD life, which – like Chronicle , [REC] et al – claims to be stitched together (by whom?) from disparate sources that miraculously dovetail to create a seamlessly coherent narrative.

But once you get past this overused framing device, End Of Watch – named after the term Los Angeles’ finest sign off with at the end of their shifts – emerges as a highly watchable, authentic-seeming portrait of day-to-day policing from the perspective of two patrolmen on the mean streets of South Central.

OK, so the box-ticking combo of Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) – cocky,  lusty, reckless risk-taker – and Mike (Michael Peña) – married, cautious, expectant father – comes straight from the Lethal Weapon book of clichés.

Yet the pair’s credible rapport goes a way towards dispelling the whiff of familiarity, the stars basing their numerous scenes of shitshooting and chain-yanking in an affecting bromance and mutual respect.

It’s not all man-love of course. There are also car chases, house fires and gang-related drug busts, one of which puts Officers Taylor and Zavala on a Mexican cartel’s hit list.

As luck would have it, the heavily tattooed foot soldiers gunning for our heroes carry camcorders too, a contrivance that comes in handy during a climactic, nocturnal face-off shown from the viewpoint of both prey and predator.

Unfortunately they are also used to record their own car-bound banter – swaggering, profanity-strewn verbiage that is entirely lacking the heart and humour of the Peña/Gyllenhaal interplay.

Then again, it’s hardly surprising that the writer of Training Day and Dark Blue should feel more at home on one side of the law than the other.

What does surprise is that a filmmaker renowned for trashing the fuzz’s reputation should be no less capable of honouring it.

Forceful and arresting, Ayer’s follow-up to Harsh Times and Street Kings sees him confidently playing to his strengths.

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