Film review: End Of Watch

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WRITER-director David Ayer evidently believes that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

End Of Watch (15) * * *

Since his 2001 script for Training Day, which landed Denzel Washington a long overdue Oscar as Best Actor, the Illinois-born film-maker has been fascinated by camaraderie and corruption within the rank and file of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Dark Blue, Harsh Times and Street Kings all painted unremittingly bleak portraits of life in uniform and, unsurprisingly, End Of Watch is stuck in that same dramatic rut.

Despite the opening title card - “Once upon a time in South Central...” - this tour of the city streets with the men and women of the LAPD is no fairytale.

Villains don’t get their comeuppance, beautiful heroines are slain before clocks chime midnight and the only people living happily ever after are the pimps and drug dealers, who exploit the weak and vulnerable.

Officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) patrol the mean streets, trading macho banter in between shoot-outs with bad guys. An opening car chase, shot through a police windscreen, ends in bloodshed and the duo are re-assigned to another part of the city and told mock-seriously ‘not to kill anybody by the end of the week’.

End Of Watch boasts thrilling action sequences and strong performances but familiarity with Ayer’s work breeds mild weariness.

Gyllenhaal and Pena are convincing as men who would take a bullet for each other, chewing on Ayer’s foul-mouthed dialogue, including a hilarious anecdote about being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

To uphold the law, you sometimes have to break it and then hide behind a shiny police badge.

Apparently that’s the modern-day fairytale.