Review: Cop Car (Sundance 2015)
PLOT:Two ten-year-old boys steal an idle cop car, only to find themselves hunted by the car's owner, a corrupt local sheriff.
REVIEW: COP CAR is the kind of movie Sam Peckinpah would have made if he'd ever gone to work for Amblin' Entertainment. It's so crazy in that it mixes a kind of boys' own adventure with seedy noir-style that wouldn't seem out of place in a Jim Thompson novel. It's hard to imagine who the audience will be for this in that it's about 1000x too rough for the kiddies (nor is it intended for them), although I'll say this, if I had seen it at ten-years-old, even though I shouldn't have been watching it I would have loved it.
Right off the bat, it's clear that COP CAR is going to be one of the most transgressive kids movies ever made with the two precocious kids at the heart of this wandering through an open field, trying to list off as many curse words as they can. The two boys, played by James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford, are great in that their childish ignorance is on full-display throughout, but they also have a touching dynamic in that you believe these lads are best pals and would do anything for each other. They fit the common kid movie archetypes, with one being a little more brash and tough, while the other is more sensitive and prone to fear, only to emerge as a hero later on.
However, I won't lie one of COP CAR's main conceits is that it relies so much on the essential ignorance of children. To that end, once the kids find a big stash of guns in the sheriff's back seat there are tons of scenes showing the kids toting weapons and trying to shoot each other (in fun) only being unaware of how to use turn of the safety (thank God). A serious twist later on clearly puts this in the anti-gun corner, but there's something disconcerting about seeing children tote guns, although at least their use isn't glamorized.
With that in mind, COP CAR is still a ton of fun. Kevin Bacon makes a memorably unhinged antagonist as he chalks up a body count, snorts cocaine, and tries to fool the kids into thinking he's on their side. But he's not the only adult the kids have to fear. Late in the game Shea Whigham shows up as a gangster who tries to make the kids think he's their pal, and their interactions with him bring to mind Eric Red's underrated COHEN & TATE. The action-packed finale is very tense, with director Jon Watts using the spare desert landscape to give this almost a John Ford-ian feel, with his western valley's replaced by long, deserted roads that cut through the landscape.
Running a brisk eighty-five minutes, Watts' film is a fun watch and has the potential to become a cult classic, and possibly even the kind of movie the kids pass around on DVD at school without their parents knowing. So far, the reception at Sundance is excellent, and adults with fond memories of their beloved eighties childhood adventure movies like EXPLORERS and THE MONSTER SQUAD will be amused at how violently awry the genre can go if put in the right demented hands.