'End of Watch': What the Critics Are Saying

The man behind "Training Day" is back on the beat capturing life on the streets of South Central L.A., this time through the eyes of Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña.

In David Ayer’s new crime drama End of Watch, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as young Los Angeles police officers who discover a stash of guns and money that mark them for death by an infamous drug cartel. The film also stars Anna Kendrick, Natalie Martinez, America Ferrera and Cody Horn

End of Watch currently holds a score of 82 percent on RottenTomatoes.

The film opens in theaters on Friday, September 21.

VIDEO: Jake Gyllenhaal on Preparing for this Role in 'End of Watch'

Bob Mondello from NPR says it’s refreshing to see good cops written in a respectful way. “This should not be a remarkable story, but in Hollywood, where cops are mostly considered interesting only when they go rogue, it kind of is,” he says.

Mondello adds: “Ayer, who wrote and directed, is hardly breaking new ground here; the elements he employs are time-honored, from the Cops-style minicam footage that lets the audience ride shotgun, to the shootouts pumped up by Red Bull and coffee. Even the buddy banter that tells you these guys would lay down their lives for each other sounds familiar.”

On the other hand, Joe Morgenstern from the Wall Street Journal thinks this style of shooting is manipulative and distracting, saying the film is a “music-video Frappuccino of quick cuts, sparkling banter, serial crises, grisly violence and tongue-jerk profanity. (The f---ing quotient is astronomical. So is the producer quotient; 16 of them listed in the credits.)”

He adds: “But the film is exciting, in its manipulative way, and exhausting, and occasionally relieved by the humanity of Brian's love for Janet, a bright, lively woman played by the always appealing Anna Kendrick.”

The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore wrote from the Toronto International Film Festival that End of Watch "feels like the work of a man who, after relishing venal and brutal policework in his scripts for Training Day and Dark Blue, has come to identify with, and maybe love, the L.A.P.D. "

DeFore adds: "It's hard at first to figure out what Ayer thinks of his protagonist Officer Taylor (Gyllenhaal), a macho ‘ghetto street cop’ whose plan to make a documentary about life on the force (he carries a camera along on his beat and in the police house, to the chagrin of colleagues) looks less journalistic than narcissistic.”

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Michael Phillips from the Los Angeles Times says the movie is a “full load of self-conscious faux realism for a relatively straightforward outline. “

“The drawback of the film's visual approach, however, is a considerable one,” adds Phillips. “The relentless first-person shooting… is less about YouTube factuality than it is about Xbox gaming reconfigured for the movies.”

The New York Times' Manohla Dargis says, “Mr. Ayer was clearly after a hyper-verisimilitude of the sort deployed in some contemporary horror flicks, an unmediated realism that’s meant to suggest the truth of the image but, as it does here, only confirms its entertaining artifice.”

Dargis concludes, "Mr. Ayer exhibits a curious nostalgia for the hood’s good old bad and blacker days, notably in the use of a Public Enemy song and a scene in which a middle-aged African-American tough (a vivid Cle Sloan) favorably compares the cops to original gangsters. It’s a moment that registers as a plea for authenticity, although less on behalf of the characters than the director. "

Writng for the Boston Globe, Wesley Morris says, "Some people will come looking for shoot-outs and craziness -- and they’re here. But writer and director David Ayer has written what’s basically a buddy comedy/cop drama. "

He adds, “Gyllenhaal and Peña are two good actors that the movies are still unsure how to use. Gyllenhaal was headed for some kind of major pop, but his talent is not a movie star’s. He’s an intense and studious actor of small, quiet gestures. He’s not an action figure. After The Prince of Persia, I hope he understands that.”