Make no mistake: End of Watch is absolutely cop porn. It pauses to fawn over just about every single aspect of the policing experience. Police are shown as selfless, good-hearted people who work hard to make a difference every day. They are almost eerily competent, but even if they fuck up, those fuckups are endearingly human. If it weren't so gory and packed from end to end with cusses, Watch could practically be a recruiting video for the LAPD. This is not the kind of thing you'd expect from David Ayer, the writer of Training Day and Harsh Times, two movies that showed the underbelly of the policing experience. Unlike those movies, Watch is squarely on the side of the Los Angeles Police Department.

Luckily, it's well-crafted cop porn. Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña play partners who are totally devoted to each other—when they're sober, they call each other bro and dude, but when they get drunk, they profess their love for each other more passionately than Romeo and Juliet—and to upholding the law. Gyllenhaal has a mildly creepy air that works well for him here; he enjoys his power a great deal, but he's still got a shade of youthful optimism holding him in line. But Peña, always an under-appreciated supporting actor, is the real star. He's genuinely funny, and his sharp line deliveries give his character a deep underlying river of adult responsibility beneath the childish sense of humor.

End of Watch isn't so much a single movie as a series of mostly unrelated episodes in which the two officers do heroic things. They ride around town and encounter a brutal attack, a fire, a drug operation, and human trafficking, among other criminal activities, and while they don't always come out on top, they always behave honorably. It's a weird narrative structure, and the primary failing of the movie is that Watch is supposed to be a found-footage picture—Gyllenhaal mentions that he's working on a documentary about his career for a filmmaking class, even though it's never really mentioned again and it doesn't sound like something his character would be interested in—but not all of the shots are explained. Found footage movies are terribly overplayed, but the best examples of the genre (Chronicle, Cloverfield) always manage find an excuse for how the shot onscreen happened. Watch flips back and forth between the filmmaker's steady camera and the highly shaky found footage motif, and it's very distracting. Once you get over the irredeemable bad guys and the weird filmmaking choices, though, Watch draws you in with its tense anecdotes and likable heroes. Ultimately, it's just a B-movie with a couple pretentions, a dark, scuzzy, gory (did I mention it's gory? Because it's, like, really gory) ride on the dark side with a couple of decent young guys.recommended