Small and simple. Probably the best thing about Cop Car is its concept- it’s simple, highly original, and is a premise that has a large amount of room to go pretty much anywhere. The film uses the concept to its absolutely best as the film starts off as a really cute coming-of-age film and then quickly diverts into a really tense thriller. Watts does an excellent job of clearly balancing those two tones and still somehow manages to keep the audience in the total dark as to what is really going on, leaving us interested in finding out why this is all happening.
Coming of age. In an age of cinema where children on screen speak like adults and outwit the ones that are around them, it’s a breath of fresh air to see children play actual children. The kids in this film are idiots; as we all were at the age of nine or eight. The film definitely doesn’t sugar coat this. We see the two young boys do things that they obviously shouldn’t do- but they do it anyways, thinking it’s a good idea. The screenplay for the film captures that feeling of being a dumb-ass kid perfectly, and it does so without the children being overly obnoxious or over the top.
Crazy suspenseful. When the film is not in its coming-of-age territory, it jumps right into a suspenseful mystery-thriller instead- and an extremely sharp one at that. The film doesn’t spoon feed us the details, giving us just enough info as we go along to not be completely confused during the entire runtime of the film. Why was the cop car sitting in the middle of nowhere in the first place? Should we trust Bacon’s character? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? These are all questions you’ll ask, and they’re all questions that you get answered through smart, subtle reveals instead of your typical, lame flashback sequences.
Climax for the memories. All of this leads up to one of the most intense finales of the year. It’s incredibly small scale, but the stakes are really high, as you genuinely want these dumb kids to make it out of this huge mess. You truly care about the characters and that just makes the finale that much more intense, and the ending that much more heartbreaking.
You’ll want to take a joy ride in this cop car.