David Ayer is something of a specialist when it comes to cop movies. And by that, I mean the day to day lives of cops on the beat, the kind of stories that tend to get overlooked in favor or big action movies or corruption thrillers.
End of Watch, which adopts a found-footage aesthetic by way of Cops, looks at the lives of two patrol officers and best friends: ambitious ex-Marine Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and married career man Mike Zavala (Michael Peña). Ostensibly we’re seeing video shot for Brian’s college course but that’s just a way to justify bringing his portable video camera and pinhole vest cams along his tour of duty. The film is really about their byplay, their job, and the everyday dangers and the extraordinary threats of life on the beat in Los Angeles.
I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Ayer in advance of the film’s release on Blu-ray and DVD. Along with questions about the use of video technology both on the job and in the film, he talked about the real-life inspirations for the stories, Jake Gyllenhaal’s commitment to the part and the film, and, of course, what he’s been watching.
“End of Watch” arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, January 22, with commentary by director/writer David Ayer and five brief, promo-style featurettes that run under three minutes apiece. It will also be available On Demand.
What are you watching?
An old World War II movie called “Attack.”
Was this simply for pleasure or are you working on a new project?
I’m working on a new project. It’s a World War II movie, with tanks involved.
You have become quite the urban cop movie specialist. Off the top of your head, besides your own movies, what do think are the best movies about cops on the beat?
On the beat. Interesting. Well, for me, one of my favorite cop movies is “Q&A,” the Sidney Lumet film with Nick Nolte. I like the old school stuff, like “Prince of the City,” more character-based works that don’t necessarily fetishize law enforcement but honor the people doing this stuff.
Do you find inspiration in those seventies cop films, those rougher dramas with more focus on character, the character of the community as well as the individuals themselves.
Yes, exactly. Showing the world and having the world become a character and this ecology of police and the people that they police is always fascinating.