J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Sundance ’15: Cop Car

Seriously, does anyone still think keeping the car keys under the sun visor is a good idea? If anyone ought to know better, it should be a corrupt sheriff. Regardless, while burying a body, he leaves them in that conveniently obvious place for two mischievous ten year-olds. A dangerous joyride commences in Jon Watts’ Cop Car, which screened at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

When you see Kevin Bacon playing a sheriff, you have to think he ought to be out there arresting kids for dancing. Instead, Sheriff Kretzer is in bed with a number of dodgy underworld types. Travis and Harrison just happened to blunder along at the right time to take his cruiser for a spin. Obviously, this is trouble for Kretzer. He can hardly explain why he was in the middle of scrub grass nowhere in the first place, let alone how he could allow his wheels to be swiped out from under him.

However, by claiming a faulty radio, he can get dispatch calling in regularly on his cell, as he madly dashes home, while still pretending to be on patrol. Eventually, Kretzer starts tracking the kids in his own pick-up, but troublesome witnesses will inevitably cross their paths.

As Travis and Harrison, James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford really look and sound like real life kids (as they are), trying their darnedest to act tough through foul language and what they think is cool posturing. Watts taps into a sort of archetypal Stand By Me-Huck Finn youth-on-the-fateful-road vibe that gives the film more resonance than one might expect. Kevin Bacon is also entertainingly sleazy and cunning as Kretzer. Unfortunately, the film is more than a tad underwritten, with a fair amount of time-killing required in between its inspired scenes.

Camryn Manheim and Shea Whigham do what they can with their small, near cameo roles, but they do not provide much connective help in the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game. Cinematographers Matthew J. Lloyd and Larkin Seiple capture the big expansive emptiness of the Colorado plains and highways. Frankly, we can understand how the boys could do something so rash and potentially hazardous out of unsupervised boredom. Despite pacing issues, Cop Car is recommended for its atmosphere and Bacon’s salty turn, following its recent premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

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