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IN SHORT: For those just out of film school.. [Rated R for language, violence and brief drug use. 86 minutes]
(or . . . They loved it at Sundance, because that audience is too young to see the flaws. Then again, stoners are gonna love this film, if they manage to time their highs. . . . Not that we're advocating drug use nor would we know anything about "timing" a marijuana high. Just get someone else to do it for you. Onwards . . .
Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford), ten year old boys in a rural area called Quinlan County, stumble across an abandoned sheriff's car sitting in the middle of some kind of field. Being boys, and tired of their game of "how many dirty words do you know?" that begins co-writer/ director Jon Watt's Cop Car, they check out the car. When they find the keys, hidden in the front seat, well, boys will be boys and the pair take their first joyride. What they don't know, is that Quinlan County sheriff Mitch Kretzer (Kevin Bacon) has business with that car -- and that business involves what is bound and gagged, bloody and beaten in the trunk of the car. Also vital to the story is a middle aged woman (teevee star Camryn Manheim) who has told two cops in a local restaurant that she saw a pair of kids driving out of control in a sheriff's car on one of the county's back roads. They told her she was crazy. Sometime later she sees that car, seemingly abandoned, on the side of that same road -- she must live out in the great no where -- and decides to get out of her car and check out what is going on.
Well, you know what happens to people who stick their noses in places where they don't belong, right? They get caught between a bad guy and a good guy while the boys are locked in the back of a car stuffed with a lot of toy guns. The boys know the "guns" are toys because they've pulled the triggers and nothing happens. They've pulled various triggers again and again and again.
Heck, they're ten. What do they know?
Yours Cranky should have gone into advertising, for at the heart of director Jon Watt's Cop Car (which he co-wrote with Christopher Ford) is a very simple film that will drive stoners crazy. It begins with boys swapping dirty words . . . something that apparently hasn't changed since the time Cranky was ten . . . adds a bloodied body (Shea Whigham), a bloody shoot-out and an out of control car chase and then refuses to deliver the coda every sober adult watching would want to see. For what begins as a story in which innocent kidlets stumble into a situation that isn't so innocent loses its soul as it "gets bigger." Once the kids are moved from protagonists to potential victims, Cop Car changes from a simple film with serious potential to a big bang big budget wannabe without a satisfying ending -- we sat through as much of the credits as we could, hoping for a marvel movie type coda stuck in those credits. It didn't happen, which is why the rating is low.
Here's the difficult point . . . we can't specifically tell you what about the story sends this film off the rails because that would require we reveal something very important that happens towards the end of the film. This is what we've told you so far: there is a good guy (the sheriff) and a bad guy (who for some reason was locked in the trunk of the sheriff's car) and two kids locked in the back of the sheriff's car with a whole lot of guns that don't work and a middle aged woman who has to get out and see what is going on. Then there is the stuff we won't tell you about . . .
. . . all of which would have real adults with a decade or two of post college life experiences under their belt screaming, because that one important part of the film story is left unresolved. While most of the film takes place in a seemingly rural setting, the final shot reveals that certain protagonists make it to the city and it is left to the audience to draw its own conclusions as to the resolution of the stuff we won't tell you about.
When we began writing twenty years ago we complained incessantly about (what we defined as) "film school graduates" who decide to force the viewer to complete parts of, or the end of, (his) serious film in said viewers brain pan. That way, if a group of viewers has drawn conflicting, controversial conclusions, you get the post-viewing arguments over espresso that we used to rail against twenty years ago. What is left unresolved in Cop Car doesn't rise to that level, at least for us.
The shame of it all is that Cop Car comes thiiiiiis close to ringing the bell.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Cop Car, he would have paid . . .
If we still have the film student readers who rejoice in our "ignorance" as to the real significance of film, we'll repeat the point; " thiiiiiis close."
NOT TO PRINT [the kids get to an overlook showing a great city. The audience breathes a sigh of relief because ... well, duh, everything is going to be fine because there is a hospital in the city. And phones to call 911 and whatever else the audience can dream up. It's a lovely picture but it doesn't get the kidlets anywhere close to rescue and a belly wound will kill in the time it [would] take to get down to city level and get help. At least according to us....]
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