Jon Watts' Cop Car is a low-key self-contained drama that gets points for script creativity and authentic performances from its two child stars, but the film's lack of depth and general information results in a somewhat slow and uneventful film.
Upcoming Spider-Man reboot director Jon Watts‘ low-key drama Cop Car is an unconventional film, ditching a much wider approach for something a little more self-contained, with a strong focus on its performances, featuring Kevin Bacon, Shea Whigham, Hays Wellford and James Freedson-Jackson. Cop Car is a slow-burn unraveling of youth and corruption and what happens when everything goes wrong.
Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon) just wants his cop car back. He parked it while disposing of a dead body and now two boys by the name of Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford) have taken it for a joyride.
These boys are barely ten, so the idea of finding a cop car out in the middle of nowhere with the keys in it is a dream come true as they cruise across the empty desert going 80 miles per hour.
They soon discover that this cop car comes with secrets when they open the truck only to find a man (Shea Whigham) beaten, bloodied and tied up.
Why is the man tied up? Who is this Sheriff and why are these boys so hell-bent on becoming rebels is never really found out in Jon Watts‘ Cop Car.
Jon Watts‘ Cop Car is an interesting film and that’s both a good and a bad thing. On paper it definitely gets points for stretching its light script into a feature-length film, but the execution is a little less than impressive, with the film feeling like a much better idea for a short.
Cop Car rarely explores its characters and their motives and instead spends too much time on its slow build up and perhaps its multi-layered approach to youth, corruption and curiosity.
The boys are the best thing of the film, played with a dangerous amount of curiosity and yet youthful innocence by James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford. Both of their performances feel 100% authentic and give you that exact same frustration that comes with watching such young kids make such dumb mistakes.
It’s a painful thing to watch and often-times can be felt as edge-of-your-seat decision-making, but only because of just how little the kids know of the world and how it works.
Watts successfully captures that and the film sort of shines around this idea, but the rest of the film feels like an uphill battle that is rarely won.
Kevin Bacon‘s Sheriff character is never fully realized and instead a weird presentation of either a really crooked cop or just a good cop with a recent string of bad luck.
Is there a good reason as to why he had Shea Whigham all tied up or is Whigham an innocent man getting tortured? Perhaps both men are equally disgusting and the entire film is about the boys growing up and facing the real world, which can be ugly on top of more ugly.
It’s mentioned early on that the boys are running away and most of the film is spent sort of reflecting back on that idea in subtle ways, reminding the boys that it takes a man to live in the real world and they’re just too young to make that transition at this point in their lives.
Or maybe Cop Car is just a fluke? Maybe Watts got lucky when shopping his script around and somehow he attached names like Bacon and Whigham and suddenly his small film had to grow a bit larger and he ran out of things to say.
I still can’t decide if I liked Cop Car or thought it was a complete waste of time, because it bounces back and forth at a constant rate and then just ends — it’s abrupt and disappointing, but it almost fits the entire tone of the film too perfectly to be considered a mistake.
I feel like most will be frustrated with Cop Car as a whole, because it doesn’t exactly register as a complete film. It definitely stinks of short film turned into full-length at last minute, but Watts still does a decent job keeping the story going, mostly because of the performances, but sometimes because of his direction.
Cop Car is definitely a rental at home though. I wouldn’t suggest seeking this one out in theaters unless you really have a thing for a mustached Kevin Bacon in uniform, which in that case I don’t really blame you.