This movie stars Jake Gyllenhaal as officer Brian Taylor, and Michael Pena as officer Mike Zavala. The movie shows an unspecified span of time in the lives of these two officers on the force. The officer, Brian and Mike, are honest and hard-working cops who stumble onto things that end up putting them into the sights of a cartel and local gang. As they continue about their days they arrest people who have ties to the cartel and gang, and end up making a name for themselves. They learn from another detainee that there is a hit out on them, but they laugh it off stating, "Hey, we're cops, of course we have a hit on us." In the end they are forced to confront the gang who has been sent to kill them and fight survive.
Watching these two actors I am reminded of the changing abilities of Jake Gyllenhaal. He can portray an alcoholic and obsessed cartoonist, a creepy news camera stringer, a love sick boy who comes to a bad end, or a good cop just doing his job. He is a very versatile actor, much like his sister, who I fell in love with in the not often seen movie SECRETARY (A good movie if can find it). I often forget that Michael Pena has a good career behind him too, but I feel as an actor he often is typecast and isn't given as many opportunities to spotlight his abilities as Gyllenhaal. In this movie they were both fantastic.
There were moments in this movie that seemed a little long, but as it does portray an unspecified period of time for the two men, it was really only short snippets in what their lives were really like. It also portrays the dangers of being an officer. In one gruesome part of the movie an officer is sitting on the side of the road with a knife sticking out of his eye. Brian and Mike go after the suspect and find them repeatedly beating on another officer, so bad that her face has already started swelling and it is likely that she will not survive the incident. Another part of the movie that stood out, besides the climactic ending, is when the two officers are sent on a welfare check and find a house of horrors waiting for them. This moment is what catapults them into the sights of the cartel leader.
While the movie wasn't fully unexpected, as the movie seemed to be building up to something like it, it was unexpected how everything happened and who ended up being affected.
I liked this movie as it held my attention throughout the entire film, which isn't something I can say about all of the movies I watch. This isn't a movie for everyone. It also does a lot of handheld video shots throughout, which at one point did become an issue for me (I get terrible motion sickness). I'd recommend it though.