You only have to take one look at the writing and director credits on IMDB to see that David Ayer knows Los Angeles, the police department and the crime scene. He wrote screenplays for Dark Blue, Harsh Times and Training Day. He also has written this movie, following two LAPD officers (played by Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña) during their every day activities. This includes routine activities like chasing cars and investigating 911 calls. When they run into someone who is connected to a Mexican cartel their work becomes a lot more dangerous.
It feels like Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña have been on the police squad for years and it really sells the movie. You don’t feel like you are watching two actors playing in a movie, but that you are watching two cops who have been on the job for years. They act natural and joke and tell stories as you’d expect and seem to have a great time when they are rolling around in their squad car. As you hear the personal stories you really start caring for both of them root for them. You feel like you are part of their team and laugh and cry when they do.
This is also thanks to format this movie is shot in. The idea behind the movie is that Gyllenhaal’s character is filming everything the two do. They both have cameras on their bodies and the police car also has tons of them. It’s a format which the movie uses most of the time, unless the story really needs it and reality tv framing is done with another camera. It’s something that some people will point out, but I really didn’t mind it and understand the decision to do it this way. It results in a movie that feels real, gritty and believable. Because of that and the great acting it is one of my favorite movies this year. There is one issue I had with the movie, which was the last scene. I understand why it was included, but it was totally unnecessary. Still, this is a movie you should have given a shot before you make those end of year lists.