Starring Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, Camryn Manheim, Shea Whigham,
Most ten year old boys have an early fascination with police cars, the flashing lights, the sound and the speed, likely all of us had a toy cop car at some point. Writer/director Jon Watts, before he was tapped to reboot Spider Man, takes that childhood notion and does a ‘what if’; inserting two ten year olds in an abandoned sheriff’s car. The result is one of the most ingenious independent thrill rides of the summer. Likely to be ignored or forgotten because it doesn’t have special effects, an all-star cast or an advertising budget, Cop Car is still one of the best films I have seen this summer. The thriller also passes my, “I have no idea where this is going” test, which is really the only way you can gage suspense these days.
Ten year olds Travis (Jackson) and Harrison (Wellford) practice their swear words and the walk away from their small town life in Podunk Town, Colorado. As they ration a Slim Jim Harrison hid in his sleeve and walk for miles in the woods, they stumble on an abandon police cruiser. With the door unlocked, pretending they are in a high speed police chase with voices and sounds changes gear when they discover the keys hiding in the visor. “What if someone see’s us?” Harrison asks. “We’ll just tell them were cops,” Travis responds. That cop car belongs to Sheriff Kretzer (Bacon) who wants it back and cleverly covers his tracks and mistakes to buy time and chase the boys down.
Cop Car is still one of the best films I have seen this summer.
Before the film reveals why the Sheriff abandoned his car in the middle of the woods, the beer bottle and mustache are the clues we need to know he is up to no good. Bacon appears very aged and ragged but the script gives his character some pretty smart tactics to navigate his way to a vehicle, keep the local department in the dark and then make contact with the boys who are joyriding in his car. The film builds suspense and then cashes in on it when the boys discover the weaponry in the back seat and then finally what’s hiding in the trunk. Yet the film keeps the viewer in the dark at where this mounting thriller might end up and that’s direct evidence of the originality in the material.
“I think I just saw the craziest thing out there,” Bev, an overweight local says to a waiter, after spotting the two boys driving the car recklessly. The film certainly has its crazy moments, but all occur under the guise of realistic situations. However, the film is at its most disturbing and unnerving when the boys find the guns and attempt to fire at each other wearing bullet proof vests. Jon Watts brilliantly taps into the mind of these boys and we cringe at their stupidity and inability to grasp the danger of the situations they put themselves in. Its suspense is equivalent to a horror film, where the viewer sees the killer before the main character. These kids are completely disassociated with reality, and Cop Car is brave enough to face the harsh circumstances.
A small, brilliant, near masterpiece thriller that keeps you guessing until the final moments.