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Sunday, June 21, 2015

BAMcinémaFest Review: COP CAR

Courtesy of Focus World
BAMcinémaFest Review
2015, 86 minutes
Rated R for language, violence and brief drug use

Review by Joshua Handler

BAMcinémaFest runs June 17-28. Cop Car will be released theatrically on August 7 and on demand August 14.

Jon Watts' Cop Car is a classically-made film that entertains and thrills, but that also engages the head - it is a smart thriller in the guise of a by-the-numbers B-movie. Cop Car tells the story of two kids who find a cop car in the middle of the woods and proceed to steal it. The car is owned by Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon), a murderous man who's desperate for his car back. 

Knowing very little about Cop Car going in, I expected a bad-cop movie starring Kevin Bacon as a psychopath. Instead, I got a much better film about two children losing their innocence and going on a crazy adventure. Seeing a film like Cop Car at BAMcinémaFest is refreshing given how entertaining it is. While this year's lineup is typically great, it isn't full of films that one would call "entertaining". That is not to say though that Cop Car is any less of a film than the others. As mentioned above, Cop Car has unexpected dramatic heft and intelligence, which causes it to be all the more impressive. 

Watts is a very good filmmaker, confident in his craft, reverential of his influences, but certainly his own filmmaker. There are enough directorial decisions and touches that distinguish this as Watts' work rather than a rip-off of the work of someone else. It will be interesting to see how Watts' sensibilities and style develop with his next film. 

Watts' style is very classical and each shot is carefully-composed, drawing comparisons to the Coen Brothers and Steven Spielberg. What he and co-writer Christopher D. Ford deserve the most credit for, though, is their scripting of the children. The children behave like children, nothing but. Too often in films do children behave with an unbelievable amount of stupidity or an unreal amount of intelligence. It's nice to see children who actually act and speak like ordinary children who would go out and make mischief in the woods. 

The performances in Cop Car match the talent behind the camera. The two child actors, James Freedson-Jackson and Hayes Wellford are believable and natural. They carry the film and are quite fun to watch. Bacon too is highly enjoyable to watch and makes the klutzy, sinister Sheriff Kretzer memorable. Camryn Manheim also has a hilarious supporting role.

Overall, Cop Car is a consistently tense and funny film that should please fans of genre movies. While not completely original story-wise, its dialogue is strong enough and it takes enough clever twists and turns to mostly make up for its lack of originality. 


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