Young LAPD officer Brian Taylor (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his partner Mike Zavala (Michael Pena) take great pride in their jobs, as they patrol the crime-ridden streets of south central Los Angeles.
Taylor is filming he and his partner’s police activities, and those of his unwilling colleagues, for a class project. Being shot and involved in high-speed car chases is an everyday occurrence for these two, yet they are still able to joke and have fun.
When the pair inadvertently stumble across a stash belonging to a local drug cartel, their routine is instantly destroyed, and they are faced with extreme danger. Taylor and Zavala are unaware of just how serious a situation they have found themselves in, and they quickly find that they are out of their depth.
Hand-held cameras afford the film a sense of gritty realism and a documentary style placing the audience directly into the action. The close brotherly bond that Taylor and Zavala share is touching and adds more depth than a typical action film. Ayer takes time to invest the audience in the characters, so that we too can form a bond with them. The action is intense, enthralling and thought provoking, as the film delves into America’s murky underbelly of drug cartels and corruption.
It’s a gripping and powerful film that leaves its audience hungry to learn more about the shocking world of police work they have been allowed a glimpse into.