Good cop films are hard to come by. The genre has been beaten to death and is filled with so much cliché that it has become a miracle to see anyone do something interesting with police related on screen.


However, in 2012, writer/director David Ayer broke the mold with “End of Watch.” Both as an action picture and character portrait, “End of Watch” is the best cop film in years, and it is one that you should definitely give a look.


Starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Pena, the film follows two talented ghetto beat cops who fight crime on the streets of Los Angeles. The officers get in over their heads when they stumble upon a massive drug ring with ties to a cartel.


Right off the bat, what’s most striking about the film is its harsh, gritty visual aesthetic. “End of Watch” is shot almost entirely by a handheld camera. The style even dips into the “found footage” genre with Gyllenhaal’s character documenting his life as a cop for a school project. This technique can be confusing, but once you adjust to what this film is going to be, it’s easy to enjoy.


However, Ayer should have gone all the way in either filming style or direction. Either he makes it a found footage film or don’t. Going halfway is distracting and gets in the way of what works so well about “End of Watch.”


The film shines in both the writing and the performances. The dialogue is fast, funny, and credible to character. You feel for these guys. It’s impossible not to get wrapped up in their stories, both as cops and as human beings. Gyllenhaal and Pena have impeccable chemistry, and they both prove that they are in the upper echelon of talent working today. It would be great to see them work together someday. They obviously have some innate connection that makes them a sheer joy to watch on screen.


Ayer’s script, though, is not without its flaws. While he pays great attention to his two leads and most of the “good guys” in the film, the villains are cardboard cutouts of what a “bad guy” is supposed to be like, both in the writing and casting. There’s no humanity to them at all, and the portrayal of the cartel here is pure stereotype and borders on racism.


Still, their scenes are few and far between, and they did not stop this writer from having a really good time with this movie.


“End of Watch” is gripping, intense, and a lot of fun to watch unfold. There are a few missteps here and there, but this one is definitely worth your time. -3/4


You can watch this film now on Netflix instant streaming.


Have you seen “End of Watch?” Are you interested? Let me know in the comments below.