Overview: It’s all fun and games until two boys steal a seemingly abandoned cop car. Focus World; 2015; Rated R; 88 minutes.
Don’t: In Cop Car, two boys running away from home walk miles away from civilization, making light of their soon to be arduous adventure. By happenstance the duo comes across a sheriff’s vehicle with a single beer bottle on the hood of the car. They stress about having police already on their tail from running away and the potential distractions they’ll have to employ to proceed undetected before realizing that the vehicle has been abandoned. They decide to take it out for a joyride, planning to tell people that they’re cops if and when they get caught. Only this car is not abandoned. Kevin Bacon’s expertly mustachioed police officer took the car out to an abandoned field to take care of some risky business, and the boys have interrupted him and a hidden passenger.
Steal: Actions have consequences. As we grow older, we grow into possessing a better understanding of this fact. You lie to your parents, you’re going to get punished. Not doing chores means you can’t go out in the evening. Stealing a cop car likewise results in a whole list of consequences. The punishment is going to be severe and beyond understanding, as when someone charged with protecting and serving is doing the exact opposite, who do you trust? The further away from civilization the boys get, the focus of this central dilemma becomes heightened. There’s no telling who is good, who is evil, and who cares to help you. Much like director Jeff Nichols’ Mud in its approach to romance and growing up, the frail nature of innocence is sprinkled throughout a story in Cop Car that resembles such youth genre classics as the twin works of American novelist Mark Twain, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, more so than any other contemporary portrayal of adolescence. A proverbial loss of innocence drives the narrative forward, with one scene depicting the kids literally staring down the barrel of a gun, an arresting image without any painstakingly obvious narrative precursor.
A Cop Car: Director Jon Watts (of the upcoming Spider-Man reboot) has an eye for camera placement and simple narrative thrust. The visuals (thanks to cinematographers Matthew J. Lloyd and Larkin Seiple) assist in exemplifying the initially lighthearted comedic elements engrossing the first few minutes of the movie. Nearly fifteen minutes of screen time is devoted to the boys enjoying their travels, helping us understand how both boys (James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford) react to their own understanding of basic moral quandaries. The boys are convincing in their friendship and demonstrate remarkable range for kids their age, especially given the weighty subject matter at hand. The comedy helps wrap you in a safety blanket, with the highlight being character-actor Bacon. But the movie bears a darker second half, with Bacon’s speechless mannerisms ranging from the hysterical to the down-right frightening.
Overall: With an unspeakably intense finale that brings the few story threads to an explosive head, Cop Car is nothing original, but Watts’ and screenwriter Christopher Ford’s script gives each beat and twist just long enough to settle for one of the most satisfying conclusions to a movie this year.
Featured Image: Focus World