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Cop drama with Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Peña in 'End of Watch': movie review

'End of Watch' actor Jake Gyllenhaal gives his most nuanced performance yet as a Los Angeles police officer.

By Peter RainerFilm critic / September 21, 2012

Jake Gyllenhaal stars in 'End of Watch' as a Los Angeles police officer.

Scott Garfield/Open Road Films/AP

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The cop drama “End of Watch” is set in the mean streets of South Central Los Angeles and they have rarely looked meaner. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña play longtime LAPD partners whose roisterous friendship goes very deep. Both actors are marvelous – this may be the most nuanced and far-ranging performance Gyllenhaal has ever given – and writer-director David Ayer (who wrote “Training Day”) is unapologetically frank about the dangers these men face.

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I wish that the Mexican drug cartel subplot was not so overwrought and Oliver Stone-ish, and the decision to shoot much of the film “Cops”-style is also problematic. (The whirlybird hand-held approach is no more “realistic,” probably less so, than using a tripod.) But the film puts you right inside an everyday inferno and, to its credit, doesn’t turn down the heat.

Grade: B+ (Rated R for strong violence, some disturbing images, pervasive language including sexual references, and some drug use.)

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