Not too many thrillers actually live up to the name nowadays. Most movies deliver excitement through action or a plot twist. Few movies create that level of excitement by digging the hole deeper for the characters, leaving the audience to keep guessing how it’s all going to turn out. Cop Car, from director Jon Watts, is one of those few.
Travis (James Freedson-Jackson) and Harrison (Hays Wellford) are two young boys who comes across a cop car while walking in a remote area far away from their town. Finding the door unlocked and keys inside, the boys seize the opportunity and take off. Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon) comes back to find his car missing, but can’t exactly report it in, leaving him to find his car through any way possible.
Screenwriters Watts and Christopher Ford know that pacing is key. Running at about 90 minutes, no time is wasted with every scene pushing the plot forward and elevating the stakes for the characters. Because of this, Cop Car never ran out of gas and my eyes never left the screen. The only speed bump the movie hits comes at the very end. The ending takes the open-ended approach, and it felt very unnecessary to say the least.
James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford were perfectly fine in their roles with Kevin Bacon knocking it out of the park as Sheriff Kretzer. Bacon plays quite a bit of the character in complete silence with only expressions and actions to let the folks at home know what’s going on. And he absolutely nails it.
The real scene-stealers here though are cinematographers Matthew J. Lloyd and Larkin Seiple. Cop Car is a gorgeous movie. With the sun beaming down on the barren wasteland the movie sets itself in, the shots always remained sharp and oh so pleasing to the eye. Mixed in with nice long takes that Watts and the actors should also be commended for, as well as some crafty camera angles and Lloyd and Seiple deserve nothing but praise for their work here.
Watts and Ford’s tight script, Lloyd and Seiple’s stunning visuals, and Mr. Bacon make Cop Car into one of the few thrillers that really works.