These are the Good Guys.
‘I am the police, and I’m here to arrest you. You’ve broken the law. I did not write the law. I may disagree with the law but I will enforce it. No matter how you plead, cajole, beg or attempt to stir my sympathy. Nothing you do will stop me from placing you in a steel cage with gray bars. If you run away I will chase you. If you fight me I will fight back. If you shoot at me I will shoot back. By law I am unable to walk away. I am a consequence. I am the unpaid bill. I am fate with a badge and a gun. Behind my badge is a heart like yours. I bleed, I think, I love, and yes I can be killed. And although I am but one man, I have thousands of brothers and sisters who are the same as me. They will lay down their lives for me and I them. We stand watch together. The thin-blue-line, protecting the prey from the predators, the good from the bad. We are the police.’
It’s hard pressed to find a film nowadays that depicts the honour and duty of the US police force, especially in light of Ellroyesque stories of corruption that are infused in the tales of the LAPD. Noir is embedded in the DNA of Hollywood filmmaking and what began as archetypal characters evolved in to shades of grey that presented the twists and turns that modern audiences craved. Something has been left behind…overshadowed – the work, the commitment, the heroism. No grey – just plain black and white of those with any integrity left.
In David Ayer’s latest Cop drama, End of Watch we are introduced to two, honest police officers – the best of friends attempting to do the best they can do to tow the thin-blue-line. Ayer’s previous films have been a catalogue of cop dramas mainly dealing with the familiarity of corruption in Training Day and the James Ellroy co-scripted Street Kings; so it is without further mention that this is a Writer/Director who hasn’t already delved in to these areas lightly.
Brian (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike (Michael Peña) are like watching the remnants of a forgotten American myth patrolling the frontier as warring Latino and Negro gangs engage in their struggle for power on the streets of Los Angeles. What adds to the intensity and personal approach to the film is the documentary style that Brian carries out on his own Cops inspired side project to document their fight against crime. As the two police officers patrol the streets we travel alongside them – we are their eyes and ears; and at times their beating hearts, as they stumble across crime scenes that pull them in to the seedy, violent underbelly that even these experienced officers underestimated.
Interspersed with banter and private moments between Brian and Mike’s family we dip in to a life away from the streets and between the sheets as Brian dates and marries his soul mate and Mike welcomes his newborn in to the world. These are the best of friends, yet two people who, at times have apposing views and lifestyles, ‘White people get hung up on this f**ing soulmate bullshit. Just hook up with a chick that can cook and want kids!’ And in these squabbling moments even we know them both well enough that it’s all talk; because these are men of action…men who would take a bullet for each other.
As they follow a drugs bust with human trafficking their lives are placed in extreme danger as a Mexican cartel orders their deaths and in a dramatic final act we are witness to a Cassidy and Sundance stand-off as intense as anything put to celluloid (or in this case, DV) in the past decade. This is a film that delivers just the right amount of impact amongst moments of genuine emotion and comedy that only two men would talk about in the privacy of their squad car. Taught direction is enhanced by the caliber of acting and chemistry onscreen that delivers and lives up to the tag of ‘greatest cop film ever made’.
Serpico would be proud.