Saturday, November 19, 2016
Directed by Jon Watts and written by Watts and Christopher Ford, Cop Car is the story of two boys who find an abandoned police car as they take it for a joyride unaware that they’re being pursued by its owner and what is in the car. The film is a look into a simple joy ride that suddenly becomes a cat-and-mouse game between a cop and two mischievous boys. Starring Kevin Bacon, James Freedson-Jackson, Hays Wellford, Camryn Manheim, and Shea Whigham. Cop Car is an offbeat yet gripping film from Jon Watts.
The film is the simple story of two runaways who find an abandoned police car where they take it for a joyride only to later get in trouble with a corrupt sheriff who is trying to find the car and what is in in the trunk. The simplicity of the story as well as the minimalist approach that Jon Watts and Christopher Ford would use to tell the story with their script makes it far more intriguing as it play into the suspense where this sheriff would try and find his car while these two boys are just driving around the town not knowing what they’re doing as they would eventually discover what is in the trunk. There is also a subplot in which a woman would see the two boys as she wondered if what she sees is true as it creates more intrigue. The script also doesn’t feature a lot of dialogue as it maintains that sense of minimalism where it’s more about behavior and strategy as it leads into this chilling climax.
Watts’ direction is quite mesmerizing as it is set in Colorado though it feels like it could be set or shot anywhere in the American West. Watts’ usage of the wide and medium shots play into the locations while using the latter as well as some close-ups for the intimate moments in the film. Especially where the close-ups add to the moments of suspense and some of the drama while Watts would create different versions of how the boys found the car and where was the sheriff when he abandoned it as it is among the fascinating moments in the first act. Watts’ direction also has this great usage of silence in the way the sheriff conducts himself as it is clear that he is quite evil but also unhinged as one of the few people he communicates with is a dispatcher. The scenes involving the boys are more lively for the first half of the film but then becomes serious in the second act as what they would discover in the trunk but also be reached by the sheriff through his radio. Its climax isn’t just chilling but also a moment where this innocent joyride the boys took into this stolen car would take an extremely dark turn. Overall, Watts creates a riveting yet intense film about two boys stealing an abandoned cop car.
Cinematographers Matthew J. Lloyd and Larkin Seiple do excellent work with the film‘s cinematography from the usage of the vast locations and natural lighting for the scenes in the day as well as the more eerie images set in the evening and at night. Editors Megan Brooks and Andrew Hasse do fantastic work with the editing as it is very straightforward yet knows when to cut at the right moment to help play into suspense. Production designer Michael Powsner and art director Nate Oldham do nice work with the look of the sets from the home of the sheriff to some of the small bits of the cop car‘s interiors. Costume designer Ruby Katilius does terrific work with the costumes as it is mostly casual for the characters.
Special effects makeup designer Midian Crosby does brilliant work with the look of a character in the film that seems to have some issues with the sheriff. Visual effects supervisor Aleksandr Djordjevic does wonderful work with the visual effects as it is mostly bits of set-dressing for some of the film‘s climax. Sound editor Paul Hsu does superb work with the sound in the way gunfire sounds as well as some of the sparse moments in the film. The film’s music by Phil Mossman is brilliant for its low-key score with its mixture of somber piano-based music with elements of folk to play into that feel of the American West while music supervisor Mark Wike provides a low-key soundtrack of rock and country music.
The casting by Craig Fincannon and Lisa Mae Fincannon is great as it features a voice cameo from Kyra Sedgwick as the police dispatcher as well as terrific small roles from Camryn Manheim as a woman named Bev who witnesses the boys driving the cop car and Shea Whigham as a beaten-down man who has a grudge towards the sheriff. Kevin Bacon is amazing as Sheriff Kretzer as a corrupt sheriff who accidentally leaves his car as he has something in its trunk where he tries to retrieve while being very slimy in the way he communicates with the boys through the radio. Finally, there’s the duo of James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford in their respective roles as Travis and Harrison as two mischievous boys who like to cause trouble as they steal a car where they just have this sense of energy into their roles that feels real as well as display that sense of fear into the situation they’re in as they are major highlights of the film.
Cop Car is an incredible film from Jon Watts. Featuring a great cast, a simple yet effective premise, and gorgeous images, it is a film that bends genres in some ways but also goes for that less-is-more mentality in telling a story that is just fascinating as well as engrossing. In the end, Cop Car is a phenomenal film from Jon Watts.
Jon Watts Films: (Clown (2014 film)) - (Spider-Man: Homecoming)
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