Cop Car, 2015.
Directed by Jon Watts.
Starring Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, Camryn Manheim and Shea Whigham.
A small town sheriff sets out to find the two kids who have taken his car on a joy ride.
Oh to be a child again! Symbolizing innocence and naivety, young kids often like to make stupid decisions because those stupid decisions often lead to an event miniscule in the eyes of adults, but for them an adventurous thrill ride. So when two children (it must be said immediately that they are shockingly well-acted and elicit the behavior of real 10-year-olds) run away from home and come across the titular vacated cop car, they can’t resist from touching it, to getting inside of it and letting their imagination run wild as they pretend they are in a shootout on the road, to eventually taking the thing for a joyride once they stumble upon the keys.
But what the hell is this little police cruiser doing unlocked and just sitting there in the middle of a forest? Well, Kevin Bacon (complete with a twirly villain mustache and rad sunglasses) was busy dragging a dead criminal body to an isolated hole, where he presumably dumps everyone he murders. After taking care of business, he comes back dumbfounded at the absence of his vehicle.
What ensues is a remarkable thriller that leaves viewers fascinated at what could possibly come next. We see the children driving around empty dirt roads and unpopulated Colorado streets, entirely oblivious to the fact that the vehicle belongs to one seriously shady Sheriff. It’s again all part of the fun of engaging in a boneheaded activity as a child.
All Kevin Bacon wants is his car back… and he wants it back really really bad. Cop Car slowly but surely shifts into a twisted dark comedy full of intense violence that comes to a head in its final 30 minutes. The final act feels like some demented love child between a Coen Brothers film and a Quentin Tarantino film, and it’s freaking awesome.
It’s just a shame that Cop Car likes to move at a glacial pace throughout many of its early scenes. Thankfully the movie is already only 85 minutes long, but there are scenes of characters doing things in this movie unnecessarily extended to the point where slight boredom settles in. As an example, there is a moment where Kevin Bacon uses his shoelace to steal a vehicle that takes minutes. Is it funny watching Kevin Bacon struggle? Somewhat, but you can’t help but feel that time is just being wasted. It almost feels like director Jon Watts was unsure of if he had enough material to cover the length of a full feature film, and just overstuffed scenes with detail instead of taking the less is more approach. Simply put, this movie would be a pure masterpiece at around 70 minutes instead of 85 minutes.
Compensating for the offbeat pacing however is a strong sense of visual direction; there are numerous wide-angle shots of prairies and forests, stylistic shots of the children driving down highways and characters coming into focus from a distance, and a chilling atmosphere giving the vibe that this seemingly harmless fun could instantly shift to a world of terror at any given notice.
The script is also on-point; it depicts children believably, gives Kevin Bacon a lot of mystery and coolness to his dimwitted antics of trying to salvage the mess he has found himself in, and gives other characters I won’t spoil here an opportunity to make an impact that each and every one seizes. There is a threat dished out in this movie that is so incredibly harsh and despicable it needs to be seen to be believed.
Many will wonder what the fuss is about until the final act kicks in, but rest assured Cop Car is a methodically crafted slow burn that erupts in tension and violence. Even when the solution feels wholly predictable, viewers will be on the edge of their seats simply because the direction is that strong at putting the audience right there in the middle of the chaos. The movie then subverts all your expectations in those final moments to an ending that while abrupt, still feels satisfying.
It’s easy to see why Marvel chose Jon Watts to reboot Spider-Man; he’s a talented director that also understands how to illustrate the joys and the subsequent danger that comes from being reckless and young.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. Follow me on Twitter or friend me on Facebook