Bullets And Buddies On The Streets Of South Central | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Bullets And Buddies On The Streets Of South Central

Play associated audio

Street gangs, drugs and the Los Angeles Police Department have been ingredients in so many police thrillers that it's hard to imagine a filmmaker coming up with a fresh take — though that hasn't stopped writer-director David Ayer from trying. He's made four cops-'n'-cartels dramas since his Oscar-winning Training Day a decade ago; the latest, End of Watch, easily qualifies as the most resonant.

It begins with a tire-squealing, pedal-to-the-metal chase through South Central L.A., shot through the windshield of a police cruiser manned by officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña). Because Taylor's taking a film class in his time off, they travel with one extra piece of equipment in their patrol car: a camcorder — useful when the chase ends in a shootout, but still much to the annoyance of his superiors.

Still, if these cine-savvy partners don't exactly go by the book, they're good guys — good cops, dealing daily with all kinds of horrors, from missing kids to human trafficking, and somehow staying unwarped, professional and decent. This should not be a remarkable story, but in Hollywood, where cops are mostly considered interesting only when they go rogue, it kind of is.

Yes, these guys are cocky and pumped up, those badges on their chests a power trip as they strut into gang territory with guns drawn. But the badges are also a responsibility they take seriously. Taylor and Zavala are "street" in the words of one of the gang-bangers they deal with, meaning worthy of trust.

Their street cred is sufficient enough that they're even given a heads-up from a guy they've previously arrested when they cross a drug cartel that's moving into the area. Not that they listen, of course, which ratchets up the stakes in a tale that's already drum-tight with tension.

Ayer, who wrote and directed, is hardly breaking new ground here; the elements he employs are time-honored, from the Cops-style minicam footage that lets the audience ride shotgun, to the shootouts pumped up by Red Bull and coffee. Even the buddy banter that tells you these guys would lay down their lives for each other sounds familiar.

But Ayer and his cast are serving all of it up not just with the urgency the director is so good at, but with an emotional undercurrent that makes it feel remarkably authentic. End of Watch is one thriller where the adrenaline rush, considerable as it is, is almost always put in the service of character. Happily, the character on display turns out to be considerable, too.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Deford: Frankly, Hot Dogs Best Served At The Ballpark

Forget peanuts and Cracker Jack. Sausages are the food most closely linked to the national pastime, says Frank Deford.
NPR

Urban Farms Build Resilience Within Singapore's Fragile Food System

Tiny Singapore imports almost all its food. From gardens on deserted car parks to vertical farms in the vanishing countryside, a movement is afoot to help boost its agricultural production.
NPR

With Ferguson, Obama Forced To Confront Race Yet Again

President Obama's carefully avoided taking sides following the shooting of Missouri teen Michael Brown, disappointing some African-American observers.
NPR

Ex-Microsoft CEO Ballmer Steps Down From Company's Board

Steve Ballmer, 58, on Tuesday resigned from the software giant's board because of other time consuming commitments including his new ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.