“Training Day” writer David Ayer patrols familiar territory once again in the new cop drama “End of Watch,” buckling audiences in for a gritty, blood-stained ride-along with L.A.’s finest. Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña, the film follows a pair of officers who become targets of a powerful cartel’s deadly vendetta.
Written and directed by Ayer, “End of Watch” is earning mostly positive reviews from critics, who praise the film’s strong narrative and the winning chemistry between its male leads. Where opinions seem to differ, however, is over the film’s “found footage” format, which some feel adds a sense of realism but others find distracting.
With “End of Watch” hitting theaters Friday (September 21), here’s what the critics have to say.
“David Ayer’s South Central-set cop film ’End of Watch’ feels like the work of a man who, after relishing venal and brutal police work in his scripts for ’Training Day’ and ’Dark Blue,’ has come to identify with, and maybe love, the L.A.P.D. Here, L.A.’s finest may work in a world of cut corners and bad attitudes, but they’re the good guys, and damned if you’re not going to accept it. Vigorously capturing the tension of walking into situations that could be deadly, horrifying, or both, it has a strong commercial appeal despite some shortcomings.” — John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
Gyllenhaal and Peña’s Chemistry
“But the only relationship that really matters is the one between Brian and Mike. There is a lot of love in that car, and Peña and Gyllenhaal make you feel it. The easy back and forth between them — topics ranging from raunchy nonsense to philosophical musings — have an organic feel that is hard to come by and usually worth the wait. These moments, seeded through the film, nearly always bring tension-releasing laughter, which we need as much as they do.” — Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
The Found Footage Format
“On the down side, it’s also yet another movie utilizing the ’found footage’ gimmick that’s all the current rage. Much of the film consists of shaky, hand-held images purportedly shot by Brian for a filmmaking class he’s taking. Even the villains are of the YouTube generation, bringing a video camera along for a drive-by. It’s an unnecessary distraction from the story, which is a good one.” — Michael O’Sullivan, Washington Post
The Final Word
“Nerve-rattling in the best way, the sharp, visceral urban police procedural ’End of Watch’ is one of the best American cop movies I’ve seen in a long time. Directed from his own script by ’Training Day’ writer David Ayer, it’s also one of the few I’ve seen that pay serious attention to what cop life feels like, both on and off duty, for those who protect and serve the streets of L.A.’s danger zone Southland.” — Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
Check out everything we’ve got on “End of Watch,” opening September 21.