Matthew Lickona 1 p.m., March 7
End of Watch
David Ayer, the screenwriter behind Training Day and Dark Blue, sets out to make his Life and Times of a Police Officer in South Central, complete with opening manifesto in voiceover. ("If you cut me, I bleed.") But he winds up with Cops for the younger generation. (Cops Jr.? Copz?) Meaning, Cops with a white protagonist (Jake Gyllenhaal) who's smart enough to go to law school but chooses not to, narcissistic enough to be forever filming himself as he goes about his job, and hipster enough to ask, "What does being a hero feel like?" after he saves some kids from a burning house. And a Latino partner (Michael Peña) who's ironic enough to be forever joking about the more outlandish aspects of his heritage (a neverending parade of quinceañeras!) even as he affirms their worth. Plus a jokey frat-boy spirit between the two of them that is seemingly at odds with the horrors they confront in the line of duty. (Bros gotta cope, bro.) The story is hugely episodic: loose ends abound, themes are introduced and forgotten, characters step to the fore and then fade away — just like real life! Eventually, however, the horrors begin to catch up to our heroes, as they keep crossing paths with a Sinaloa cartel cell in their newly assigned neighborhood. If the Jittercam ever managed to hold a single shot for more than five seconds, the various dramas might be enough to make you feel something. As it is, the in-car banter between calls is the best thing going here.
— Matthew Lickona