August 15, 2015

Movie Review: Cop Car

There are times when I go to a movie and while I watch the film unfold, I think to myself how there is no way that it could have been made by a big studio. If I know it is going to be a small release, I will frequently think how there is no way that it will play for a wide mainstream audience. Now, this is for movies I like, mind you. I hate to think like this, but it is true. For those of you who are really into movies, have you not had thoughts like that while watching a movie? You can be smiling giddily, enjoying every moment, but deep down, you know there is no way an average audience is going to latch on to it. It can be for any reason, but you know it is true, and it makes you sad.

Cop Car is one of those movies that has the star power to draw an audience, but it is the sort of movie that has a creative streak to it. It plays the mash up with a couple of genres, the end result is an involving, sometimes funny, sometimes grim feature that does not play to expectations. It is a simple film that leaves a lot to be filled in by the viewer, which works and adds to the overall charms of the film. What makes it feel rather fresh and unique is it mashes elements of a crime thriller (not unlike something the Coen Brothers would do) with bits of a kids adventure movie. Weird, right?

In the director's chair is Jon Watts, who also directed Clown (2014) and is in line to direct the next reboot of Spider-Man. If this movie is any indication, I think Spider-Man is in good hands. At least it is in the hands of a director who has demonstrated some vision and is not just a hired gun. The writing duties were shared by Watts and Christopher D. Ford, who is a frequent collaborator with Watts, having also co-written Clown. The result of this collaboration is a good time that you should try spending some time with.

The movie opens with two ten year old friends, the free spirited Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and the more reserved Harrison (Hays Wellford). They are walking through the expansive fields in Colorado. The two are running away. Why? We do not know, but one can assume they are doing the things that kids do. As they are walking, they come across an abandoned cop car, complete with keys. After overcoming their initial fears, they hop in the car and take off. There is definitely some fun loving glee as we watch these kids drive around the open fields in the cop car, turning on the siren and flashing lights, generally having a blast. Sure, we know they shouldn't have done it, but they are on an adventure.

Issues arise when the car's rightful owner, local Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), returns to where he thought he left it and finds it gone. It is pretty clear from the get go that Kretzer is not exactly a good cop, and he is involved in something rather unsavory. They never go into exactly what, but it is pretty easy to infer some things. In any case, he is rather desperate to get his car back. The kids, on the other hand are having fun adventuring!

You cannot really share all that much more of the plot, lest you begin giving away the surprises. Let it be said that the movie features some great performances, is very funny at moments, and deadly serious at others. It is a movie that I was in for right from the start. There is a certain level of menace, and childlike discovery that is rather infectious. It is hard not to get into the story being told. The mash of adult thriller and child adventure is an ingenious one, it never goes fully one way or the other.

Cop Car plays like two different movies that got mashed together. Two decks of cards, one facing up and the other down, shuffled into each other. We do not get the full story of either film, just the confusion, tension, and humor that is created where the two meet in the middle. Am I interested in the full story? Sure, but I also do not want anyone telling me what it is, I am more content to make it up as I go along based on the clues laid out here.

What else is there to say? There is something beautiful in the simplicity of this movie, the way things blend together, and in the performances. Bacon is solid, as usual, there are a couple of moments where his mood changes on a dime, it is quite magical. The kids were pretty solid as well, their fun and fear is catchy. Cop Car is a movie that you should really see, show Hollywood that we like creative films like this.

Highly Recommended.

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