Skyfall Review – Coalescent Bond


Director: Sam Mendes

Writers: Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, John Logan (screenplay), Ian Fleming (books)

Stars: Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Javier Bardem, Naomie Harris


Release date: November 9th, 2012

Distributors: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Columbia Pictures

Countries: UK, USA

Running time: 143 minutes


4½/5

Best part: Roger Deakins’ cinematography.

Worst part: The underused Bond girls.

Celebrating 50 years of saluting Queen and country on the silver screen, the James Bond film series has capped off its anniversary in style. Continuing the rebooted timeline with the previous Daniel Craig led Bond films, Skyfall stands tall as a delicate yet authentic mix of old and new. In love with the ideology of the Bond series and Ian Fleming’s original material, the 23rd instalment may be looked back on as one of the greatest films in Bond history and one of the most enthralling action-dramas in recent memory. Skyfall is a smart, stylish and well-acted piece of true escapist entertainment.

Daniel Craig.

Skyfall kicks off in beautiful fashion. After a chase through Istanbul streets leads to the loss of a valuable MI-6 hard drive and 007’s apparent death, M (Judi Dench) and fellow agent Eve (Naomie Harris) must take responsibility for MI-6’s regrettable actions. Bond (Daniel Craig), coming back from a well deserved holiday, is a ghost of his former self. Known to shoot first and sleep around later, his physicality and mental stability have been thrown off target. This couldn’t have come at a worse time for the British secret service, as M’s past comes back to haunt both her and the agency. The damaged yet protective Bond must now find the source of this harrowing terrorist threat, revealed in the form of former MI-6 agent turned intuitive computer hacker Raoul Silva (Javier Bardem). Between Shanghai, Macau and Scotland, MI-6 must stop Silva before his next horrifying act, while finding the psychological meanings behind Bond’s prickly demeanour.

Judi Dench.

Judi Dench.

Coming off of the thrilling Casino Royale and the sorely underrated Quantum of Solace (although clearly the weakest of the three), Skyfall provides a greater insight into one of cinema’s greatest series’. Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) is the only Academy Award winning director to ever helm a Bond film. His signature gritty style and melancholic outlook on humanity is ever present in Skyfall, creating an interweaving look at the dark side of Bond’s existence. At one point, Ralph Fiennes’ Character Gareth Mallory asks Bond the simple question “Why not stay dead?”. From that point on Bond succinctly sets out to prove himself, portraying a cynical yet still effective anti-hero character. With everything the common film-goer knows about the Bond series, Mendes and screenwriters Neal Purvis, Robert Wade and John Logan develop a new perspective on the evolution of this ageing franchise. Bond’s existential outlook on technology, terrorism, corruption and human connection is the key to his successes. But to what extent is his professional side a positive? Craig proves to be the best 007 to date. His rugged features, cold tone and instant charisma deliver a necessarily harsh spy with a touch of heart. Dench continues her ever present fine form, delivering a strong performance as the out of time leader of MI-6. Credit also goes to Javier Bardem for his slimy turn as the homoerotic villain with a taste for revenge, continuing his run of villainous characters after No Country for Old Men and Collateral. A creepy mix of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Hannibal Lecter and the Joker, his frightening presence creates a sympathetic yet vicious Bond villain. The girls, though effective in shaking and stirring Bond’s psyche, are sorely underused.

Javier Bardem.

Harris provides a dash of wit in a charming yet thankless role, while newcomer Berenice Marlohe simply stands around and looks pretty as a plot device. With the re-introduction of analyst and gadget-specialist Q, Ben Whishaw delivers a whimsical portrayal of one of Bond’s closest allies. The film is an eclectic mix of modernity and tradition. The Bond series strained with the silly yet occasionally enjoyable Moore, Dalton and Brosnan eras. Skyfall de-constructs the tongue-in-cheek elements of the previous Bond films such as the girls, guns, gadgets and globe-trotting. “What did you expect? an exploding pen?” Q says to Bond, as the witty banter throughout looks back at the notorious elements of an influential yet cyclical series. Constant references to other Bond films coupled with the Bourne series’ style of gritty-realism, Skyfall is a fitting entry into the already visceral and socially conscious Craig-Bond saga. The tragic aspects of Bond’s separation from a blood-stained yet seemingly enviable reality are similar to Mendes’ Road to Perdition and Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight saga. Similarly to Bruce Wayne’s story of loss and redemption, Bond’s life as a troubled agent is expanded through his chilling and contemplative resurrection. The story deals with death and re-birth, symbolised imaginatively with a gothic and fluidly designed opening animated credit sequence. Bond and M are equally defining characters this time around, illustrating that both tradition and honour can have a relevant and unique impact in an advanced age of espionage. The mother/son relationship is defined to a greater extent, as their co-dependence gives them the motivation to complete this difficult assignment.

“Some men are coming to kill us. We’re going to kill them first.” (James Bond (Daniel Craig), Skyfall).

Craig & Bond's signature Aston Martin.

Craig & Bond’s signature Aston Martin.

The film serves to be a Rorschach painting for the audience, leaving everyone to create a new interpretation of cinema’s greatest spy. Continually changing the continuity of this franchise, the Craig-Bond era has created an earthy and vibrant re-iteration of a once declining series. Skyfall  significantly benefits from Roger Deakins’ cinematography. A regular cinematographer for Mendes and the Coen brothers with such films as No Country for Old Men and Jarhead to his credit, Deakins creates a rich yet dulcet tone for each wildly different location across the globe. From the glowing neon lights of Shanghai’s cityscape to the concrete and maze-like exteriors of London, Bond’s mission is brought to life with a darkened touch. Deakins and Mendes also effectively capture the grisly identity of Bond. The use of both silhouettes and mirror images create an inner conflict within Bond himself; as a character establishing his own sense of place after previous failings. From the opening shot, Craig’s silhouette helps to create a truly imposing visage and charismatic presence. White the inventive silhouette covered fight atop Shanghai creates intense edge-of-your-seat thrills. The action sequences are effectively shot and choreographed, capturing several awe-inspiring moments within Bond’s dangerous missions. The exciting pre-credits chase through Istanbul creates a death-defying sense of scale fitting for its chilling resolution, while matching the intense Parkour chase in Casino Royale.

With Skyfall a worthy extension of the Bond universe, it should hopefully inspire the same level of ingenuity and depth in both future Bond instalments and modern action cinema. Thanks to the amicable cast and crew, this instalment stylishly honours the legacy.

Verdict: An affectionate and heart-thumping take on 007. 

Seven Psychopaths Review – Hollywood Hustle


Director: Martin McDonagh

Writer: Martin McDonagh

Stars: Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Christopher Walken, Woody Harrelson


Release date: October 12th, 2013

Distributors: Momentum Pictures, CBS Films

Countries: UK, USA

Running time: 110 minutes


 

4½/5

Best part: Sam Rockwell’s hilarious character.

Worst part: Underused female characters.

Ever since Pulp Fiction‘s effect on the cinematic universe in 1994, many directors have tried to capture that similar balance of violence, wit and references to classic elements of popular culture. Now among several complex and smartly written gangster/assassin comedies following Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece, Seven Psychopaths sits atop this year’s gritty gangster/assassin character studies above Killing Them Softly, Lawless and Looper. The film is a vibrant and stylish comedic-drama, stretching the credibility of typical cinema tropes in the vein of Get Shorty or even Tropic Thunder.

Colin Farrell & Sam Rockwell.

Martin (Colin Farrell) is a struggling screenwriter living under the famous ‘Hollywood’ sign in middle class Los Angeles. Surrounded by quirky characters while finding inspiration for his latest screenplay, he becomes embroiled in a strange plan helmed by struggling actor Billy (Sam Rockwell) and Hans (Christopher Walken). Having stolen the beloved Shih Tzu of dangerous gangster Charlie (Woody Harrelson), the three bumbling friends must go into exile before the increasingly vicious Charlie can find them. The three friends run into many troubled characters such as Martin’s frustrated girlfriend, a rabbit carrying sociopath (soul singer Tom Waits) and a mysterious assassin known only as ‘The Joker of Diamonds’. Martin must also overcome writer’s block and discover a knock out idea for his next grand story, hopefully before all three end up on the wrong end of a gun.

Christopher Walken.

From the opening scene, involving a witty conversation between two slimy gangsters played by Michael Pitt and Michael Stuhlbarg, director Martin McDonagh quickly becomes the worthy successor to Tarantino. Following his surprise hit assassin-comedy In Bruges, McDonagh has provided a funny, self-reflexive and hyper-stylish crime flick. Similarly to Guy Richie’s Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, Seven Psychopaths reveals so many intricate and fun details in every captivating scene. The film finds the right balance of absurdity and intelligence. The intertwining cast of characters creates a rich narrative, effectively placing the screenplay’s effect on cinema in full view. With strange ideas continually incepted into his alcohol induced mind, Farrell’s character carefully lays everything out on the page. Seven Psychopaths creates a subtle and nuanced separation between Martin’s confusing situation and the ideas flowing through each characters’ minds. Their ideas form several stylish and blackly comedic sequences, including an increasingly elaborate shoot out, an Asian terrorist dressed as a priest and character actor Harry Dean Stanton as a creepy figure dressed in black. Despite the inclusion of multiple stories creating a cohesive whole, each short story sorely decreases the film’s sense of urgency.

Woody Harrelson & Zeljko Ivanek.

Woody Harrelson & Zeljko Ivanek.

The film greatly benefits from the inclusion of McDonagh’s derivative yet engaging style. Identifying every psychopath is a fun guessing game, grounding the film in a solid sense of fun straight after every shocking and outrageously clever act of violence. Borrowing similar stylistic techniques from Tarantino and Richie, McDonagh effectively captures the harsh realities of both a life of crime and the Hollywood system. Gangsters, assassins and serial killers soon end up on the wrong side of our three unlucky ‘heroes’. The film is a wink and nudge to its modern cinema audience, de-constructing and subverting significant clichés in one of Hollywood’s most overused film movements. Target demographics, violence, female characters and climactic final shoot-outs are all discussed in a condescending tone. It’s no coincidence that Farrell’s character is named after the director, as McDonagh displays a profound love for influential crime flicks such as Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde and Natural Born Killers.

“You didn’t think I was what? Serious? You think I’m not serious just because I carry a rabbit?” (Zachariah (Tom Waits), Seven Psychopaths).

Tom Waits.

Tom Waits.

The A-list cast delivers the hilarious and snappy dialogue with a much needed sense of enthusiasm. Colin Farrell has always played the drunken Irish character type with a wave of charisma. He continues this here, providing many hilarious reactions as the innocent screenwriter surrounded by dog kidnappers, assassins, angry gangsters and suffering friends. Sam Rockwell, impressive throughout his career, goes off like a firecracker as the struggling actor with many questionable hobbies up his sleeve. A sarcastic yet scathingly honest character with a love for his friends, he portrays the average Joe with an obsessive love of girls, guns and blood-soaked mayhem. Christopher Walken provides his most enigmatic performance since Man on Fire as the repressed and passive-aggressive con man. Woody Harrelson provides yet another outrageous and deadly turn as the tough-as-nails gangster with an enduring love for his four-legged friend. While Abbie Cornish, Olga Kurylenko, Kevin Corrigan, Gabourey Sidibe and Zeljko Ivanek provide solid turns in thankless roles.

When is all said and done, Seven Psychopaths comes off like a homage to the world’s biggest entertainment hub. Taking the industry for a spin, this crime/gangster-comedy will rough you up, ask for your money, before showing you a good time. Have fun!

Verdict: A smart, hilarious and self-reflexive gangster-comedy.

Alex Cross Review – Crooked Case


Director: Rob Cohen

Writers: Marc Moss, Kerry Williamson (screenplay), James Patterson (novels)

Stars: Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Ed Burns, Rachel Nichols


Release date: October 19th, 2012

Distributor: Summit Entertainment

Country: USA

Running time: 101 minutes


1½/5

Best part: Ed Burns as Cross’ police partner.

Worst part: The incomprehensible cinematography.

As the lead in a hugely successful series of crime novels by James Patterson, psychologist and detective Alex Cross has been enormously influential for both modern literature and the African-American community. The character has been brought to the screen before; portrayed by Morgan freeman in 90’s crime thrillers Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Alex Cross, based on the 12th book in the series, all too clearly needs the charismatic presence of Freeman. The reboot comes across as nothing more than a simplistic literary adaptation of a series lost on the mass cinema audience.

Tyler Perry.

Tyler Perry.

Cross (Tyler Perry) and police partner Tommy Kane (Ed Burns) are top cops in their precinct overlooking the crime addled streets of Detroit. Established as both a saviour of the innocent and loving family man, Cross has been known to calm the approaching storms around him with tenacity and hyper intelligence. His detective work is second to none, putting him on the war path with the criminals and corrupt. His latest investigation however leads him into the oncoming path of a skinny, psychotic assassin known as Picasso (Matthew Fox). This cat and mouse game soon leads to the darker side of Cross coming to the surface. Overlooked by their own allies, Cross and Kane take the law into their own hands before Picasso can strike his next targets.

Matthew Fox.

Matthew Fox.

This adaptation of the hugely successful series will be lost on anyone unaware of the source material. Director Rob Cohen was once a name to look out for following the success of his first action flick The Fast and the Furious. Cohen here continues his embarrassing losing streak after Stealth and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. Much like his previous flops, style leaves substance in the dust. Alex Cross‘ contrived story fails to spark excitement, mostly due to a lack of tension or originality. Alex Cross is an inept and dull crime thriller, following the story and character clichés of every cop film of its type. Aiming for influential crime-thrillers such as Se7en and Silence of the Lambs, the film’s lack of emotion, depth or complexity creates a level of tedium endured when watching lesser quality TV police procedurals in the vein of Law and Order or Criminal Minds. The over the top silliness of this adaptation can partly be blamed on the irritating visual style at hand. Yet another director influenced by the work of the late Tony Scott, Cohen directs with a lack of coherence or subtlety, trying desperately to pass it off as a dark and gritty look at Cross’ run in with a psychotic madman.

Ed Burns.

Ed Burns.

Constantly shaking and tilting cameras, the awkward inclusion of low grade footage, low lighting and quick cuts develop a classic example of how not to create Bourne style action thrillers. Similarly to Guy Richie’s Interpretation of beloved literary figure Sherlock Homes, Cross investigates each crime scene with remarkable and almost super-human accuracy. Unlike Homes however, Cross’ discoveries aren’t explained or quantified. From one discovery to another, the alluring concept of Cross’ investigative skills are used solely for simplistic exposition; failing to develop the character beyond the obvious. The obvious clichés of every detective thriller are all checked off here. Poorly shot action sequences and a numbingly-silly revenge plot fail to draw attention away from the implausible character motivations or actions. Within the first 20 minutes, basic character traits are repetitively and unnecessarily communicated. Any luck of expanding on basic character types is lost, partly due to the significant lack of chemistry between anyone involved. The consistently flat delivery of the painful dialogue scattered throughout creates little more than a forgettable detective thriller through the eyes of this beloved character.

“He won’t stop. I’ve seen his face. I’ve heard his voice. I will meet his soul at the gates of hell before I let him take a person that I love away from me.” (Alex Cross (Tyler Perry), Alex Cross).

Perry & Burns.

The miscast characters fail to live up to previous examples in the genre. Tyler Perry (primarily known for his melodramatic screenplay/directorial work and for playing the religious, ball busting old woman ‘Madea’ in several of his own features) lacks any sense of emotional range or charisma needed for this important role. Turning down The Wire’s Idris Elba was clearly a mistake, as Elba could have brought flair to this generic cop-thriller. Not faring much better however is Matthew Fox (TV series Lost, Speed Racer) as the psychotic menace, despite being brave enough to shed 35 pounds for the role. Sporting a similarly elaborate villainous façade as Guy Pearce’s recent turn in Lawless, Fox fails to achieve the same charismatic presence and immersion into the wild role. Trying too hard to be a mix of the Joker and Hannibal Lecter, his kooky mannerisms, bulging eyes and thick Brooklyn accent fail to create a satisfying whole. Also faring worse for wear is John C. McGinley as the typical angry police chief. His gruff tone and elaborate mannerisms, though effective for his role as Dr. Cox in Scrubs, distract from every illogical yet serious situation.

Surprisingly, despite his extended career making soapy dramas, Tyler Perry is far from the worst element of Alex Cross. Thanks to the stale screenplay, amateurish direction, and over-the-top performances, this crime-thriller makes for a mutilated corpse.

Verdict: Don’t ever come across Alex Cross.

The Master Review – Religious Rambles


Director: Paul Thomas Anderson 

Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson 

Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Laura Dern 


Release date: September 14th, 2012

Distributor: The Weinstein Company 

Country: USA

Running time: 138 minutes


 

4/5

Best part: Dynamic performances from Phoenix and Hoffman.

Worst part: Amy Adams’ underused role.

With religion a major part of our current social status, the debate of fact versus belief is regularly explored and discussed. Religion has been one of the past decade’s biggest talking points. Whether it is the positive words of a controversial celebrity follower or the criticisms of a sceptic, modern organised religion will always fight an uphill battle against the media. Influential director Paul Thomas Anderson(Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk Love, Magnolia)’s film The Master explores the creation of one of the world’s most controversial institutions. He has created a touching, opaque, delicate yet explicit character study from the outsider’s perspective.

Joaquin Phoenix.

The story follows embittered WWII veteran Freddie Quell (Joaquin Phoenix), an inappropriate, angry and immoral man suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He seeks to expel his demons through alcohol, violence and sexual encounters. His ongoing troubles inadvertently lead him to nuclear physicist, spiritual leader and family man Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman). Leading a tour across America, Dodd brings the fractured Quell into his home, hoping to change him for the better. Joining his controversial cause, Quell’s detailed initiation process will either make or break him for good. Encountering Dodd’s unimpressed wife Peggy (Amy Adams) and sceptical son Val (Jesse Plemons), his dreams of a life away from war and sickness will hopefully cure his violent quarrels.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

The Master is a subtle and meditative look at the birth of religion and the tenuous process of induction. The story is supposedly based on the exploits of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. Anderson has found a way of objectively discussing the differences between religion, cult and freedoms associated with democracy. Quell is a symbol of a United States that has left its veterans behind. Drinking concoctions made up of film chemicals, medicine and missile fuel, Quell is a seemingly immortal man lost to the temptations of power, hormones and alcoholism. His initial downfall effectively illustrates the harsh problems associated with both the military and organised religions. Finding a temporary yet uncomfortable solace through violence and day labour, Quell is a lost soul eager to change for the better. He is a disgraceful yet colourful character, journeying toward breaking the bonds of a bleak establishment. His character however never truly believes in the science-based practices of Dodd. He never seems to change throughout the course of significant events, despite his desire to settle back into Middle America. The Master sadly fails to create a satisfying character arc for this lost soul and twisted individual. Phoenix however delivers an Oscar-calibre portrayal of a common man poisoned in more ways than one. Providing a return to form after his controversial run of incidences, Phoenix places his body on line with every word straining to escape his crinkled facial features and gangly figure.

Amy Adams.

Phoenix also provides a mix of sensitivity and intensity in many scenes, providing the same alluring presence as he did with his portrayal of Johnny Cash in Walk the Line. Anderson creates a strong and almost homoerotic friendship between Quell and Dodd, a theme prevalent in the majority of his films. Similar to Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano’s relationship in Anderson’s previous film There Will Be Blood, Quell and Dodd represent the positives and negatives of control, capitalism, and self-assured freedom. Both characters reign over others, but to differing degrees of effectiveness. Whereas Quell lashes out at people attacking Dodd’s word, Dodd is a deranged character determined to keep his unstable side locked up. Hoffman’s turn as the Untrustworthy yet charming leader proves why he is currently one of Hollywood’s best actors. He is enrapturing and unnerving as the enjoyably boisterous patriarch of his own special family known as ‘The Cause’, while suitably intense in many of his interrogation scenes with Quell. Quell, obsessed with picturing naked women in certain situations, is a character in desperate need of a stern father figure. His relationship with Dodd may become is saving grace, trusting a man all too eagerly convincing the world of his own strange practices.

“If you leave me now, in the next life you will be my sworn enemy. And I will show you no mercy.” (Lancaster Dodd (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), The Master).

Hoffman & Phoenix.

Hoffman & Phoenix.

The supporting cast however is underused in pivotal roles. Adams is effective as both the icy queen of Dodd’s feuding household and cautious follower of his work. Plemons is charismatic in his few scenes, providing a thought provoking stand against a man who considers himself a god. While Laura Dern is a suitable presence as one of Dodd’s most important  followers, believing every word of Dodd’s theories regarding past lives and time travel. Anderson has continually proven how to depict a cynical yet detailed look at Middle America at its most vulnerable. Effectively capturing the steamiest part of America’s sex life in Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood‘s oil tycoon blinded by arrogance and a lack of self-control, Anderson here develops every possible opinion in a 1940s America beginning to evolve past WWII. Anderson’s unflattering look at humanity, captured through multiple shots of average faces, illustrates an aura of disgust with certain individuals looking down upon the mentally unstable or anarchic. Illustrating the subtle yet noticeable differences between religion and cult, Anderson’s detailed discussion of unusual practices and preachings is a profound insight into the vast differences between truth and personal belief. One blackly comedic scene reveals Dodd’s disgust with anyone openly disagreeing with his peculiar religious statements.

Verdict: A thought-provoking and visceral religious discussion. 

End of Watch Review – LAPD Lore


Director: David Ayer

Writer: David Ayer

Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick, David Harbour


Release date: September 21st, 2012

Distributor: Open Road Films 

Country: USA

Running time: 110 minutes


 

4/5

Best part: The chemistry between Gyllenhaal and Pena.

Worst part: The confusing mix of steady-cam and video footage.

From L.A. Confidential to hit TV series The Shield, entertainment continually presents a nasty yet somewhat realistic look at cops and criminals in one of the United State’s largest cities; filled with the most inhumane gangs and law enforcers in history. End of Watch however conveys an updated representation of the L.A. cop cliché, creating believable characters whom best describe themselves as the thin blue line between predator and prey.

Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Pena.

Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Pena.

Following yet another police ride-a-long in the modern Hollywood film-making era, Officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) capture the seedy underbelly of South Central L.A. in more ways than one. Following the continuing trend of found footage cinematography, Taylor and Zavala place small cameras on the police car dashboard and their clothing to capture the lives of L.A’s most respectable cops. Filming for a university class in Taylor’s Law degree, the partners encounter ‘regular’ incidences such as unwilling informants, car chases and shoot outs. The decorated partnership is faced with its biggest threat upon busting multiple crimes linked to a Mexican drug cartel. Becoming the cartel’s biggest targets, they must protect themselves, their families and the innocent people of lower class L.A.

Anna Kendrick.

Capturing a unique perspective of a dangerous situation, the irritating tropes of found footage filmmaking are thankfully enlightened by the subject matter being documented. David Ayer (writer of Training Day, director of Harsh Times and Street Kings) has evolved as a director with each presentation of LA’s cop vs. criminal system. Leaving behind the fantastical action tropes and over-the-top characters of Street Kings, End of Watch is his most accurate and engaging account of modern police officers struggling with the day to day. The hand-held film-making style conveys a similar aesthetic as the controversial reality TV series Cops, capturing a gritty and affecting view of L.A’s finest. The cinematography however distracts from the overall appeal of this smart crime-thriller. Despite the action sequences, police searches and crime scenes being presented with affecting realism and intense performances, the constantly shaking camera affects the continuity of each important sequence.

Pena in action!

Pena in action!

End of Watch finds a unique balance between story and character. Creating a thought provoking insight into the work of the L.A. police force, the film concentrates on its main characters as much as the oncoming gangland threat. Both Taylor and Zavala provide a first hand perspective of the dangerous and uncomfortable positions they put themselves through everyday. Continually breaking the fourth wall, descriptions of investigative techniques and the police station itself create an intelligent yet engaging hands on approach. The film also provides an enjoyable balance between 80s crime thriller and kinetic action flick. The violence, similar to Ayer’s previous work, is depicted as the most important factor in a cop’s line of work. Bullet holes, severed heads and skewered eyes are presented in an affecting manner, creating a much more realistic account of police work than many conventional action-thrillers of its type. The City of God-like look at multiple gangs in one city provides a broader look at the battle L.A. police continually fight. However, the overtly brash stereotypes of Mexican and African-American gangs create little more than an obvious representation of L.A’s crime problem.

“The LAPD’s got a big F*cking cock!” (Van Hauser (David Harbour), End of Watch).

Gyllenhaal & Pena.

Gyllenhaal & Pena.

The film is lifted by Taylor and Zavala. They present themselves with the determination and moral core necessary for their work on the front lines. Having become used to every horrific crime scene, threat and response imaginable, they create a somewhat witty and sarcastic look at the line of duty. Somewhat silly at times, Taylor and Zavala lend an emotional centre to a story affectingly capturing the most remorseless area of L.A. Gyllenhaal and Pena are the core of the film, providing two of the most charismatic and heroic characters in recent memory. Showing a touching and heart-warming look at their loving relationships, the chemistry between everyone involved provides a brave look at an unhealthy situation. The car becomes a safe setting for both officers, willing to openly, poignantly and hilariously discuss their relationships, personalities and existential problems. Gyllenhaal continues to prove his acting prowess, adding his determined and enjoyable performance here to his similarly commendable work in Jarhead, Brokeback Mountain and Zodiac. While Michael Pena may hopefully achieve notoriety with his turn as the funny yet cynical police partner.

End of Watch, aided by an enjoyable cast and crew, is a testament to the hard work certain A-listers willingly undertake. Thanks to Ayer, Gyllenhaal and Pena, this crime-thriller takes charge and delivers a worthwhile 2-hour distraction. Hooah!

Verdict: An intense and enjoyable crime-thriller.