Friday, September 25, 2015

In Jon Watts' COP CAR, a pair of updated Hardy Boys encounter some very bad things

The Hardy Boys, for all you youngsters out there, was a popular series of books first published back in the late 1920s about a pair of young boys who investigate all sorts of mysteri-ous happenings (think of them as a male version of Nancy Drew times two, though they actually preceded Nancy by three years). I bring this all up because those Hardy Boys came to mind as I watched the new film COP CAR, which is about to make its Blu-ray/DVD/digital HD debut this coming week.

The Hardys, however, never encountered anything quite like what our two ten-year-olds get up to in this very-necessarily R-rated movie. Another critic has compared what happens to something out of a Coen Brothers film, though Cop Car has little of the Coens' style or sense of humor (it's funny and semi-stylish in its own manner), though the brothers' love of violence is indeed on hand, if only as a threat until very late in the proceedings. As co-written (with Christopher D. Ford) and directed byJon Watts (at right), the film is funny and intriguing from its opening scenes and holds you in thrall right up until its 87 minutes have concluded.

Though its above-the-title star is the oft-seen Kevin Bacon (on poster, top, and in the penultimate photo below), the movie rests solidly on the small shoulders of Bacon's co-stars -- James Freedson-Jackson (shown above) and Hays Wellford (below, left) -- the former a neophyte, the latter with a few roles already under his belt.

These kids (and the actors who plays them) are fabulous: funny and real and full of that anxiety that hits at the onset of puberty and doesn't let go until -- if you're lucky -- adulthood. The first 15 minutes of the film, in fact, belong to these kids alone, and they make the most of it as, apparently running away from home along a wide stretch of barely populated Colorado plains, they come across what appears to be an abandoned police car in a secluded, slightly wooded area.

The writers/director contrive to show us this first charming, funny scene, then go back a bit in time and then forward again, surprising us and making us more than a little concerned for the safety of these two boys.

The tale takes place within a single day -- a few hours, really -- which gives it a goose of extra reality and suspense, as event piles on event until things grow much darker and we're not at all sure where they will lead or what the outcome might be. In addition to Mr. Bacon and the boys, the cast includes only two other major roles (unless you count that of Kyra Sedgwyck, who plays the voice of  the police dispatcher): Camryn Manheim (above) and Shea Whiigham (below).

The movie is so cleverly plotted, exciting and fun that it surprises me it was not more widely seen. In fact, it's that rare more-or-less-mainstream film that we critics enjoyed (79% on Rotten Tomatoes) more than the audience (54% on RT). So, if you're in a mood for a movie than goes from sunny, light and carefree to awfully dark and unsettling, take a ride in this Cop Car.

The movie is an object lesson -- for all the characters involved -- in the myriad ways in which our actions can have unintended consequences. It's particularly sad that our under-aged heroes, with so little experience to fall back on, must suddenly learn this, too.

Cop Car, from Focus Features, hits the street on Blu-ray/Digital HD and DVD this coming Tuesday, September 29, for purchase or rental. 

No comments: