Writer and now director David Ayer is known for his gritty cop dramas, which in the last decade have included the acclaimed Training Day, Dark Blue, Harsh Times and Street Kings. Last week we got our first sneak peek at Ayer’s latest and perhaps most promising cop-inspired film since Training Day, the riveting End of Watch.

Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña star as partners, friends and two of LAPD’s finest who make a big gang bust and unsuspectingly earn a spot on a powerful drug cartel’s hit list. Gyllenhaal, in his first movie in over a year, promises a compelling performance as Brian Taylor, having transformed himself into a uniformed officer after five months of physical and tactical training (and shaving his head).

According to Ayer, the “found footage” cinematography required the camera crew to stay out of sight during scenes and even the actors to occasionally act as cameramen (apparently, Gyllenhaal got pretty good at it by the end). But more than anything it sets the film apart from other cop flicks and adds a documentary-style feel that may prove winning.

Perhaps you’ve seen Training Day. Perhaps you liked Peña in Crash. Perhaps you read how Gyllenhaal convinced a cop he was a fellow officer on the streets of L.A. (no, really). Or perhaps, like me, you’re just obsessed with the formula of cop films that blend equal parts drama, action and, yes, even humor. Whatever your excuse, End of Watch is a must. But since it doesn't premiere until September 28, all you can do for now is watch the trailer over and over again … or even better, get the lowdown from my breakdown:

00:07: Officer Taylor (Gyllenhaal) introduces himself and his partner Officer Zavala (Peña) in the locker room on a handheld camera. Zavala, who is half-naked, shies away from the camera. There’s petty banter. We smile.

00:18: A string of armored officers goes out on a mission. Taylor introduces his patrol unit, “one of the toughest divisions in the LAPD.” A Lieutenant advises them to take pride in what they do. We get the sense that these words will haunt the officers throughout the film, no matter how much grit ensues… which, considering Ayer’s repertoire, will no doubt be substantial.

00:25: “From the writer of” titles are interspersed throughout the first scenes. The last one reads “The Fast and the Furious” (I know, but keep watching). It’s a visual cue that initiates the action and is appropriately followed by a car chase that ends in a collision and an arrest. Just another day on the job.

00:42: The sentimental part. We get a taste of their friendship off-duty. They dance, they double-date, they celebrate Zavala’s new-born child in the hospital. “Everybody here is family.” They talk about children while patrolling and who their daughters will (or, rather, will not) date. We get a feel for these characters: they’re top guns, but they’re good cops and good men. We root for them.

00:55: A dispatch call and a shot of Taylor from underneath the glove compartment as he responds. “What are we looking for again?” Zavala asks. “Dope, money, and guns,” Taylor responds. That’s exactly what they get.

01:03: The pick-up truck driver they pull over goes to shoot Zavala, who dodges the bullet and cuffs the shooter. He confirms that Taylor is safe. But that’s a foreign concept in South Central L.A.: there are machine guns in the back seat, cash and bling pouring out of buckets (literally), and a handgun embellished with diamonds. Something’s off.

01:12: Then, the bust that will change their lives. They break into a house. It’s the cobra’s nest. They’ve stumbled upon a drug cartel. Foreboding words from a S.W.A.T. officer darken the tone: “You just tugged on the tail of a snake. It’s going to turn around and bite you back.” The grit begins.

01:31: Jarring music intensifies to match the increasing tension. Gripping scenes of gangs, arrests, violence, and sex flash in rapid sequence. “They operate by a different set of rules” is sung to the tune of mean-faced thugs.

01:50: Zavala and Taylor exchange a vow of brotherhood. “If anything happens to you” lingers.

02:00: A man in the hood warns them that there are rumors that they’re on a wanted list. Taylor dismisses it as an occupational hazard, but nobody looks convinced.

02:05: They chase a suspect who leads them into an apartment building. It’s instantly obvious that it’s an ambush. Switch to several heavily armed gang members cocking their firearms, and back to two alarmingly outnumbered officers hiding out in a shabby room. We suspend our disbelief against all odds and hope that they’ll make it out safely.

02:11: Taylor and Zavala are down on the floor, face flat. Taylor strategizes. “Listen to me, we’re shooting ourselves out of here” sounds more like a threat than a promise. There’s a countdown. 3, 2, 1.

—GEMMA JUAN-SIMO

Watch the trailer here:

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