In Cop Car, we see Kevin Bacon from a different angle than in The Following or Black Mass. Here, he’s the tormentor: A cop with a beaten man in his trunk, bags of cocaine in his possession, and a temper he’s slowly losing in a growling, Southern roar. Still, the biggest of his problems is two young boys, Travis and Harrison (James Freedom-Jackson and Hays Wellford), who have gone joyriding in his sheriff’s cop car.
While films about police brutality have been around for some time, I find it more difficult to watch films about cops with the growing number of violent deaths that first responders are suffering in the real world. Here, Bacon’s Sheriff Kretzer is less a cop and more the epitome of darkness and deceit. He is the boogie man who kids have been taught to obey and respect but remains thoroughly corrupt underneath.
While the boys themselves are troubled, they would be considered normally troubled. As tweens often do, they are merely raising a little ruckus that they take too far in the theft of the police car. However, it’s the adults–from the angry female bystander, the man in the trunk, and Bacon’s sheriff–who are all manipulators and untrustworthy in their own intentions. The kids remain innocent, still trapped between fight or flight.
Overall, Cop Car is tense at times, sprawling at others, though the work of Bacon and these unknown boys is admirable. Bacon’s wife, Kyra Sedgwick, plays the dispatcher in a fun bit role, but otherwise, the action is mostly focused on our two protagonists and their pursuer. Is that enough to make us care? Is there a story there about growing up and fighting for survival? Absolutely. Unfortunately, it plays out in a way that is simple, despite all of the nuance.
For those seeking a coming-of-age story, or a simple thrill ride, this one may still be enough to turn the ignition.