Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Pena, Anna Kendrick
Directed by: David Ayer (“Street Kings”)
Written by: David Ayer (“Training Day”)

Hollywood is no stranger to cop-centered entertainment. In comedy, there’s the buddy cop formula where often an uptight by-the-books cop is paired up with an nontraditional, sometimes buffoonish one and hilarity occasionally ensues. There’s also the story of the hard-nosed crooked police officer dipping into illegal activities such as last years “Rampart.” But beyond the reality trash-TV of “Cops,” you don’t often get a glimpse into not only into the daily routine of seemingly regular policemen, but the relationships and bonds that form within the brotherhood.

“End of Watch” follows LAPD officers Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) through their days as partners patrolling the streets of Los Angeles. One day, they discover something that places them in the middle of a life-threatening drug cartel and they must work together to protect each others lives.

The film features a pair of dynamite performances from Gyllenhaal and Pena, which without a doubt rank among the best of their respective careers. While the performances stand strongly on their own, their on-screen chemistry is as strong as any duo seen on the screen in the last few years. Throughout the entire film, it feels as if you are watching not only work partners, but legitimate best friends and brothers interact with each other. Not only do their dramatic scenes play off well, but Gyllenhaal and Pena are able to effortlessly joke around and goof off with one another. In fact, “End of Watch” is surprisingly funny, evoking buddy-cop style comedy in its most humorous moments.

A large section of the camera work of “End of Watch” comes from a handheld camera, under the explanation that Gyllenhaal’s character making a movie for a project in his film class. While the rationale might be a touch flimsy, the usage of this particular camera work adds a visceral and gritty dimension to the film, which makes it feel less gimmicky overall than a typical “found-footage” movie. Director David Ayer is also certainly not afraid to show graphic violence, including several scenes with disturbing imagery that is perhaps heightened in its impact by the intimate home-video quality of the cinematography.

Extremely raw and realistic, emotionally charged, tense and often funny, “End of Watch” is a wholly satisfying movie-going experience. It is able to overcome its lack of intricate plot by combining a unique visual presentation, a compelling and authentic day-in-the-life storytelling style, and two actors symbiotically elevating the quality of the material. Without question, “End of Watch” is a cut above most action cinema and one of the best cop movies in recent memory.

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