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September 21, 2012 by · 1 Comment 

Once again, a small, auteur work is garnering over-the-top praise from critics even while they are pummeling far more lavish productions.  With a handful of dissents, they generally agree that writer-director David Ayer has again created a classic police drama. End of Watch is, writes Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times, “rare in its sensitivity, rash in its violence and raw in its humor.” What is most remarkable about the $8-million movie, they say, is the realistic interplay between the chief players, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. There are scenes between the two that are “so playful and true they make all other buddy cops look bogus by comparison,” writes Amy Biancolli in the San Francisco Chronicle. Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that the two actors trained for months with real police officers before the film was shot. The result, he writes, is that they learned to “display the moves, and mentality, of dedicated police officers. It’s not a pretty job. But it’s a pretty awesome film.” Even the few reviews that are critical of the movie overall single out the two stars for accolades. Wesley Morris in the Boston Globe comments, “There are 6 million cop shows on television right now. On none of them have I heard two men speak to each other with as much natural affinity as these two.” But Morris is one of several critics who faults the use of small, handheld cameras, some even pinned to lapels, to lend a realistic atmosphere to the film. “[Ayers] succeeded only in making his movie look cheap,” he remarks. In many recent films in which cops are the principal characters, they have been rendered as immoral and/or dumb. This is not one of those. Roger Ebert remarks in the Chicago Sun-Times, “It’s inspiring to realize that these men take their mission — to serve and protect — with such seriousness they’re willing to risk their lives.” Peter Howell in the Toronto Star makes the same point: “It’s refreshing to see [a film] where the boys in blue really are the good guys for a change,” he says. But Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal suggests that the characters may simply appear to be too good to be true. He calls the film, “a great recruiting tool for the LAPD. Unencumbered by nuance, these cops are as pure as they are brave.” And Rick Groen in the Toronto Globe and Mail concludes, “End of Watch suffers from no end of sanctimony. Sainthood is all well and fine but it ain’t drama and, on screen at least, the question cries out: Where’s a corrupt cop when you need him?”