Perhaps it’s not surprising that, with only two low-key feature film credits under his belt, director Jon Watts has been snapped up by the Mighty Marvel Machine for its first post-Sony stab at bringing Spider-Man to the big screen. But Marvel’s gain is surely indie cinema’s loss; on the evidence of the taut, gripping and occasionally terrifying edge-of-the-seat thriller Cop Car, it’s likely that Watts could have gifted us something a little more original and enervating than the further exploits of yet another costumed super-freak. However, Cop Car is a brilliant calling card in itself, driven (geddit?) by two great naturalistic performances from a pair of under-tens and which reminds us that there’s more to Kevin Bacon than cheesy mobile phone advertisements.
It’s a simple and yet irresistible premise. Travis and Harrison are two young lads who appear to have left home. They’re ambling across wide open spaces when they stumble across an unattended sheriff’s cop car. Fascinated, the boys take turns in playing tag until, emboldened, they get into the car and start playing around. When the keys tumble out from behind the visor they can’t resist temptation and decide to go on a little drive... Sheriff Kretzer (Bacon) is baffled to find his car has disappeared; he’s been busy burying a dead body he dragged out of the trunk earlier. Panic and desperation mount as Kretzer tries to find out what’s happened to his car even as the two boys take it out onto the open road and later stop to explore and play with the cache of guns on the back seat. Then there’s that strange muffled bumping coming from the trunk...
Cop Car is a masterclass is creeping tension. A growing sense of unease builds as the boys – two outstanding and sometimes rather touching performances - dig themselves deeper and deeper into trouble; your heart will be in your mouth when they wave Kretzer’s guns around and stare down the barrel of a rifle, baffled as to why it just won’t fire.
Cop Car works because it doesn’t feel the need to tell us everything. The boys have left home but we don’t know why; Kretzer’s up to his neck in something nasty but we’re not sure exactly what beyond what we’re shown – and the ending leaves us frustratingly hanging in the air with nothing much resolved and many questions unanswered. But that’s refreshing in age when movies seem to have lost the art of subtlety and feel the need to spell everything out to the audience, usually in words of one syllable. If there’s fault to be found it’s in a couple of moments of credibility-stretching coincidence but in every other regard this is a brittle, edgy and sometimes uncomfortable movie which, trust us, has got ‘future cult classic’ written through every frame.
Special Features: Cop Car Tour / Making-of
COP CAR / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JON WATTS / SCREENPLAY: JON WATTS, CHRISTOPHER FORD / STARRING: KEVIN BACON, JAMES FREEDSON-JACKSON, HAYS WELLFORD, SHEA WIGHAM/ RELEASE DATE: OCTOBER 19TH