Cop Car is an unexpected little thriller that keeps you guessing throughout. Written (with Christopher D. Ford) and directed by Jon Watts, it stars Kevin Bacon as the cop, and he is one of the producers. Travis (Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Wellford) look like they are about 10 years old and have run away from home when they come upon the sheriff’s car out on the countryside. They hide from whoever might be around for a bit, then get enough nerve to run up and touch it. No one seems to be around, so they get in and start fooling around and pretending they are cops. As they get braver, they explore what’s in the car and begin driving it (with only the Super Mario videogames as previous experience.
In the meantime, the sheriff comes back for his car only to be dumbfounded at its absence. Much of the suspense and thrill of the story has to do with why he is out there in the first place and how he will devise a way to get his car back—he is not in uniform and has left all his equipment in the missing car. His conversations with the dispatch officer are clever in their disguise of the basic problem and his maneuverings to get his car back.
The boys have a great time at first, driving the car over the hills and then at higher speeds on the highway. When they get bored, they stop and explore the car further. That’s when they find guns, a bullet-proof vest and a huge surprise in the trunk. My only problem with the film is that present-day 10 year-olds are so much savvier about cars, guns, and electronics than these two. With a little more creativity, the writers could have found ways for them to get into as much trouble without straining credibility.
The drama has clever twists with additional characters that enrich its appeal and tension, such as a woman on the highway who has to figure out what to do when she thinks she has spotted two kids driving a sheriff’s car on the highway.
The experienced, talented Kevin Bacon easily plays the role of the sheriff facing major dilemmas. The two child actors are as natural as they should be, and adeptly show terror and concern when that need arises. Realistically, one is a little wiser than the other, who offers common sense at first, but easily gives in to dares from the other. One of the additional characters simply listed as “Man” is played very effectively by Whigham, who had a major role in the television drama, “Boardwalk Empire.”
A couple of good lessons contained in the film are 1) that private citizens should be cautious about their involvement in catching perpetrators—leave it to the police; and 2) that children should be taught at a fairly early age about how to handle guns, the risks of taking things that don’t belong to them, and what to do and not do in emergency situations that arise (such as how to get in touch with those who can help). The film could be used for good teaching moments, but only if parents are comfortable with their children seeing an R-rated film.
A joy ride turns out to be life threatening for two young boys.