Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic, editor of Movie City News and a contributing editor of Filmmaker magazine. He is also a photographer: his history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images is forthcoming. Check a few signs on Twitter (@chighostsigns) as well as daily photography on Instagram (instagram.com/raypride). Twitter: @RayPride. (Photo: Jorge Colombo.)
“Once upon a time in South Central” is the opening title of this LAPD buddy film that blends fairytale touch with cop pulp and faux-video POV. From April to August, indicated by date-stamping onscreen, officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) are pals on patrol. The friendship makes this an entertaining character study. Among the many laudable decisions by writer-director-producer David Ayer (“Training Day”) is to stay on duty and not make off-duty do time as melodrama. Although some of the bad guys and other cops turn up more than once, their dealings with Brian and Mike do not drive a conventional plot. In fact, not much happens with the co-stars, in between all the well-crafted action scenes with shots fired. Lots of shots in some cases. Ayer’s best call is assimilating the gimmick of multiple cameras built into the mise-en-scene, as in “Cloverfield,” “Redacted” and “Look.” There is a seamless inconsistency to this device here, which Ayer needlessly calls his “360 degree perspective.” With one line, the screenplay accounts for Brian’s constant use of a camcorder: he is shooting an assignment for a film class he’s taking in his pre-law curriculum. With Anna Kendrick, America Ferrera, Cody Horn, Natalie Martinez, Frank Grillo. 109m. (Bill Stamets)
“End of Watch” opens Friday.