“I am fate with a badge and a gun, protecting the prey from the predators, the good from the bad. We are the police.”
Mike Zavala (Michael Peña) and Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) are the two superheroes of the LA police department. Afraid of no one and unable to care of which shoe they step on as long as they uphold the law they manage to become two of the greatest street soldiers of the city.
Throughout their day to day routine they happen upon some members of the cartel. Through this Mike and Brian manage to push themselves to the top of the cartel’s to do list. The film builds to the eventual shootout between the cartel’s hit squad sent to take care of these two cops and its definite outcome.
Peña and Gyllenhaal play the two most crazed and loving buddy cops you’ll find in film today. While in other cop films you usually see the corruption of the system here you see its purest representation as these partners never step out of their bounds, they may bend it from time to time, but never break. This is shown most vividly in a scene where the two of them approach a home to deal with a noise complaint and Mike finds himself disarming himself to enter into a fist fight with the individual in order to prove a point. This proves their unwillingness to play by the rules directly and enact some sort of moral guided law, especially when we later discover that the result of that altercation was never used against the individual in a legal manner.
Is the film a discussion of honour then? Obviously Mike and Brian are honourable. The black gang are not shown to be dishonourable. However is Big Evil (Maurice Compte) and his gang (the cartel) honourable? They’re the one that eventually lead Mike and Brian into an area with every intention of killing them. It isn’t a face to face altercation in which both parties are given equal opportunity to walk away alive. So when the film is over and we see what happens does honour remain in our protagonists’ hearts? Or is it just a story of the darkness of our times?
Thematically the film feels dry. It doesn’t come up with anything more than having Gyllenhaal and Peña be enjoyable characters to watch on screen. When we look at the story of Brian and Janet (Anna Kendrick) we don’t truly see a story of substance rather than another time filling romantic subplot that makes us smile, because the two of them look adorable together, but nothing more.
The film is told from a found footage perspective. While films like Paranormal Activity, Rec and Cloverfield have shined with this technique, here it comes off as distracting. The director is looking to make a loveable episode of Cops but instead forces too many questions of how the film casually has all parties, including the cartel and black gang also having cameras (which someone in every scene has to tell the cameraman to turn off). It comes off as contrived and too unbelievable after a short while and distracts from the great performances.