Blood, Badges, and Brotherhood. David Ayer writes and directs a solid story centered on two cops that are as close as brothers, going about their daily grind on the gang riddled streets. While the documentary/handheld approach doesn’t really add anything to the aesthetic or story, the rest of the production feels real and honest enough for an insight into the dangerous work these officers are up against. The film ultimately takes place over an 8-month time span, but it does feel a bit much that all we’re witness to are some of the more extravagant situations that these characters end up falling into usually on a whim.
Excessive Everything. There’s no sparsity of language and violence throughout, but when the violence strikes it’s done in a way that usually makes an impact. Where language can become dull and unnoticed over time the moments that Ayer’s wants to shock and appall is done so not with just the help of strong visuals but accurate and truthful reactions from the individuals experiencing it. The film is full of heavy moments, plenty of tension and all of it comes down to the characters being honest and relatable.
Chemistry and Comradery. Above all else the friendship that Gyllenhaal and Pena convey on screen is palpable. These are undoubtedly two buddies who've been through it all and will always be there for one another. Their banter is one of the highlights of the film and plenty of moments shared between them and other family members ease the audience from the grit that pervades the rest of the story. It’s also the one thing that helps forgive the several familiar tropes and at times uneasy flow of the overall picture. It’s a cop drama with the same things all cop dramas have, but most cop dramas don’t have two likable characters with as much energy and charisma as the leads here.
Compelling and relatable characters in engaging and thrilling situations make up for any pitfalls stumbled upon along the way.