“Cop Car” is as lean and mean as its name. An unabashed b-movie, it’s a down-and-dirty story about two kids, a desperate con and a cop who really wants his car back. It’s back to basics but loaded with tension and some unexpected moments.
Kevin Bacon plays the kind of corrupt cop who locks people in his trunk and says things like, “Tell me the truth or I will shoot you.” When two ten-year-old boys steal his police vehicle for a joy ride—“What if somebody sees us?” asks one of the kids. “We’ll just say we’re cops.”—they set into motion a deadly game of cat and mouse that will change their lives forever.
“Cop Car” is a smartly made but simple movie that doesn’t rely on fancy tricks to tell its story. Stripped down, it instead assumes its audience are good and moral enough to understand how fraught with danger it is to have two children playing with a loaded gun in the backseat of the titular locked cop car. Desperate to get out they first try and shoot out the window, which doesn’t work. Then they pound on the glass with the butt of the gun, literally inviting the weapon to misfire and injure one of them. There will be no spoilers here, but I can tell you that the sight of these young hands handling the gun is unsettling in the extreme, which, I imagine is exactly what director Jon Watts had in mind.
Bacon is at his white trash best in a role short on dialogue but long on menace and both the young guys James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford hand in naturalistic performances.
“Cop Car” begins as a joyride becomes anything but joyful, and while the story is bleak, it is a bleakly beautiful coming of age story that packs a punch.