Directed by: Jon Watts.
Written by: Jon Watts & Christopher D. Ford.
Starring: Kevin Bacon (Sheriff Kretzer), James Freedson-Jackson (Travis), Hays Wellford (Harrison), Camryn Manheim (Bev), Shea Whigham (Man), Kyra Sedgwick (Dispatch).
Speaking as a former 10 year old boy, I can attest that they really are stupid – I’m not quite sure they are as stupid as the two in Cop Car are, but they’re not that far off, especially when you get two of them together, egging each other into doing things neither would do by themselves. Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford) are running away from home – which where they are from means walking across seemingly endless fields and farms on their way to the woods – they are already pretty much in the middle of nowhere, and now they’re trying to get even further away. Once there, they discover a seemingly abandoned Cop Car. No cop is inside, they cannot see one anywhere around – so they do what idiot 10 years do, they get inside and start playing with all the cool stuff they find – including the keys which they eventually get. So what do they do, of course, except take off in the car across the fields, making their way to the highway – which is almost as abandoned as the woods. The two are in constant danger – if their driving doesn’t kill them, then the way the handle the guns they find just might. And that’s even before two not so nice men enter the movie.
Kevin Bacon plays Sheriff Kretzer – and it’s his car the boy stole. He didn’t leave it in the middle of the woods for some innocent reason – but because he had to dispose of a couple of bodies that he is keeping in the trunk. He has already dragged the first one to its shallow grave and it’s when he returns for the second one that he discovers his car is gone. He obviously cannot let anyone know about the missing car – and what it contains – so he tries to track it down all by himself. And, of course, it turns out that the dead body in the trunk isn’t quite dead after all.
Co-written and directed by Jon Watts (who, based on the strength of this is apparently going to direct the new Spider-Man movie now – a shame because I’d like to see him do something like Cop Car – albeit better – next time), the film works like a well-oiled machine of a thriller – not wasting a second of its 86 minute screentime, and giving us no useless characters or backstory. We don’t know why the boys are running away for instance, and we have no idea why the Sheriff killed (or thought he killed) the two men and is trying to get rid of them. The movie doesn’t have time for any of that.
The movie does have time for a lot of twists and turns in the plot – some of them quite surprising, not because they are overly original per se, but rather because it’s rather shocking to see a movie whose two main characters are 12 get this violent and nasty. As the kids get themselves into increasing danger, it certainly made me squirm a little bit as a parent (and did make me think about gun control a little – although, no one could really argue that a cop car should not have guns). When the violence does hit, it’s quick, brutal and bloody.
I admired Cop Car more than I actually really liked it. It is, of course, a rather outlandish premise – but it’s one that Watts pulls off with interesting attention to detail. No, it’s not really plausible, but he makes you think it could be. Yet the movie never quite reaches the heights it could have – it takes a little too long warming up, and then just kind of ends (the ending isn’t so much ambiguous as it is non-existent). The film is good – the work of a director I certainly want to see more of. I’m a little disappointed that Hollywood has gotten their hands on Watts and put in the blockbuster machine so early – another few low budget thrillers like this, and he may have made a truly great one. Cop Car isn’t that – but it’s enough to convince me that Watts could eventually make one.