3.5 out of 4 stars by Bayard Lewis The setup for “Cop Car” seems like something imagined in a pre-adolescent day dream. Two young boys who have run away from home stumble upon an empty sheriff’s car, complete with keys. Unbeknownst to them, the trunk holds a bound man who is awaiting execution from a crooked sheriff. Both of the 10 year olds in the film are presented as archetypal children. Travis is the dare-devil, the child who would have convinced you to throw rocks at an abandoned home. Harrison is more shy and seems to be along for the ride with his best friend. It’s never revealed why they’ve decided to run away from home. As their adventure begins, they count on a single slim jim to provide enough sustenance to ration for days. The child actors deliver a vulnerability on screen that’s impressive considering their limited experience in film and television. They have both found something emotional and resonant to grasp onto with the hearts of their characters. Their fear, innocence, and sense of youthful wonder comes across as they take risks and face life threatening scenarios. Kevin Bacon plays the crooked sheriff whose car has been stolen by the boys.
Near the beginning of the film we see him hauling a body to a dugout hiding place. When he returns, the car is gone and we can feel the panic as his criminal handiwork is interrupted. Bacon’s role here reminded me of Woody Harrelson in “Rampart” where both are vile cops without the limitations of morality. The man in the trunk played by Shea Whigham (“Boardwalk Empire”) adds a dynamic element to the story when the boys become his prisoners. From the moment his bloodied face appears on screen, Whigham’s character will hurl you into his world of pain. The landscapes of the greater Colorado Springs area served as the backdrop for the film. Wide open prairies and mountains are ambiguously western and I thought the film was set in Texas, like the Cohen Brothers’ “No Country For Old Men”. Several elements take the film beyond a lower-budget thriller. Kevin Bacon’s screen presence is enthralling and he makes the criminal fear palpable and his character’s motivations believable. There are a many surprises in the story that make it unique and mostly unpredictable. Whigham’s “man in the trunk” character is truly terrifying and his performance in the later part of the film will keep you engaged. Cop Car is a movie that lives up to its trailer. It’s a tense, nail biting ride that never breaks the illusion of believable fiction, and boasts a strong cast to deliver thrills. It’s an indie film that will make you rethink how good indie action flicks can be. •