End of Watch ★★★

A potboiler made problematic due to its heart. When it spends energy humanizing its characters, it generates enough plausibility to make its goofy plot developments even more preposterous. It’s deeply conflicted, wanting to show us the good work of average beat cops yet needing to provide amped up action-movie stakes. The cops have a convincing friendship and idealized personal relationships, yet the Los Angeles they patrol is a grisly, dehumanizing nightmare. This all suggests the “buddy cop” movie as an inherent contradiction, but dozens of successful examples of the genre mean that Ayers just hasn’t balanced his screenplay well enough. Issues of credibility and a pointless first-person camera gimmick aside, this is a likeable, if shameless, film anchored against all odds by some extremely strong performances.