REVIEW: Cop Car

14 08 2015

Cop CarJon Watts’ “Cop Car” opens with a familiar scene for anyone who escaped lower school: two kids tossing around swear words like a hot potato.  They do it not as an organic reaction to any sort of stimulus; they do it just to wield the power of the taboo.  This is the first of many examples that demonstrate just how well Watts and his co-writer Christopher D. Ford understand the mindset of kids.

Their two pint-sized protagonists, Travis and Harrison (James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford), hardly fit the bill of the typical precocious on-screen youngster.  They are just pre-pubescent pinheads engaging in the same dumb stuff everyone does around the age of ten.  Here, they take it one step too far when they decide to go joyriding in an apparently abandoned police cruiser.

Because “Cop Car” is a movie and not the punchline of a Jeff Foxxworthy “redneck” joke, the vehicle obviously has an owner.  Unfortunately for them, that man is the crooked Sheriff Kretzer, who is played by Kevin Bacon, the prolific actor perhaps best known for the “Six Degrees of Separation” game often played with him at the center.  This is the first time Bacon has really cashed in on his iconography like Liam Neeson has in recent years, and he does it here to play gloriously against type.  This role sees him sporting a full-on porn star ‘stache and a protruding gut that undeniably comes from convenient store beer.

Sadly, Kretzer gets precious little time to menace.  At under 90 minutes, “Cop Car” never really lets him develop as a dynamic force.  The film is meant to be told from the kids’ perspective and from their eye-level, to be sure.  But that simplicity of spirit ultimately winds up working against the film as the childlike viewpoint just becomes little more than a downright childish caper.

Kevin Bacon Cop Car

The straightforwardness ultimately ends up becoming the film’s downfall as the story about 10 year olds winds up feeling like it was written by someone of that same age. Only in its final minutes does “Cop Car” assume a perspective that looks at the particular moment in the lives of the protagonist with something resembling retrospection and contemplation.  By then, it feels somewhat “too little, too late.”

“Cop Car” does possess a certain spareness about it, although that sensibility feels more elementary than elemental.  Watts presides over a technically sound, cleanly crafted machine.  But for just cheap thrills?  Hopefully he learns how to better extricate himself from the wondering eyes of his characters before taking on the new “Spider-Man” film.  B-2halfstars

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