Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Cop Car Review

Two young boys are out wandering a long way from home. Through their dialogue we quickly establish they have run away, though why is a mystery. Suddenly they spot a cop car and they hit the dirt, worried they may have been spotted. The car is empty, but the officer is near. An open beer bottle still resides on the hood. Go touch it, one of them says. I dare you. As we all learned in A Christmas Story, a dare isn't something to be taken lightly, although we never reach triple-dog status here. So they each take a turn touching the care, but it isn't enough. Next thing you know they are sitting in it, pretending to drive when the keys literally fall in their lap. Would they actually start it up? Could they actually drive away?

A cop parks his car in the middle of nowhere with sinister motivations. Two men in his trunk although only one is still breathing. The perfect spot to bury the ultimate evidence. The silence of being alone in a place shrouded by trees. He takes the last drink of his cold, delicious beer and places the bottle on the hood. He drags the body away, though why is a mystery. Why did this man have to die? Why is the other one still alive? Why doesn't matter. After taking care of half of his problem, he returns to find that something is missing. His car. Where the fuck is his car?

Cop Car is the new film from director Jon Watts and I can't quite wrap my mind around the experience just yet. I don't know if sleeping on it will help. It's a film that at times thrives because of confident direction, especially during a brilliant sequence towards the end of the movie taking place on an empty road. Empty beyond these two cars, a pickup truck and a cop car, the showdown we were waiting for. It is a sublime example of how to utilize the space of the setting and the sound of the natural environment, as we aren't inundated with a blasting soundtrack but rather the rustling of the wind and the rhythmic clanking of an operating oil well. 

Unfortunately it fails almost as much as it succeeds, as I can't quite decide what the goal was here tonally. The closest style I could compare Cop Car to would be the work of the Coen brothers, only not nearly as effective in its blend of comedy and thrilling dramatic sequences. The boys are the most fun aspect of the picture but their stupidity transcends the level of humorous to an absurdity that almost seems to try too hard to be funny when it really isn't.  The police officer is played by the familiar face of Kevin Bacon and his performance is so campy and ridiculous that it....actually...works I think? I remain undecided on the presence of Bacon. For the way the character is written, he pretty much nailed it in every way but at times it was just too much. 

At times Cop Car is so wacky and strange that it feels like a comedy I couldn't take seriously, and then seemingly with the flip of a switch the tension is dialed up and the dialogue is disturbingly dark and I was left wondering what the hell this movie was truly trying to accomplish. When it's good though, it's so good. It's the type of work that leaves me wanting more from Watts but also fully confident that I will get just that in the future. He clearly has an eye for how to shoot a sequence with a delicate and patient hand, framing everything wonderfully and making the audience wonder not if but when the bullets will start flying. 

When the lights are flashing and the car is flying down the road through the darkness, I was hooked. I just wish it wasn't so silly along the way.


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