Kevin Bacon has had a pretty interesting career in acting. After his initial teen favourite phase of Footloose and Tremors he has managed to avoid being typecast in any one genre or role and has taken on a wide variety of roles. Some more sympathetic than others. His latest film, which premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival before a recent DVD release, is the drama Cop Car.
Two pre-teen boys are on an adventure. They have notionally run away from home and are hiking across the open countryside when they find a police cruiser which looks abandoned. They can’t believe their luck when they find it is unlocked and the keys are in the car. Joyrides ensue. What they do not know is that the car belongs to Sheriff Kretzer (Kevin Bacon). He is someone you donot want to mess with. He went out there on an errand that involved disposing of a couple of bodies. Unfortunately the car went missing before he got the final body out of the trunk. So he is in pursuit of the boys who are totally oblivious to the potential danger they may be in.
Director John Watts may not be an instantly recognisable name but he’s one to watch after the announcement that he will be in charge of the new Spider-Man relaunch. So it’s fair to state that this movie will be getting a bit more attention than it normally would. Fortunately it’s a good one.
It is a simple story that is conveyed very well. Two kids take a cop car for a joy ride. Sheriff goes hunting for it. That’s about it. The definition of high concept cinema. The thing that draws the audience in is in the way the story unfolds and the tension increases. For the first half the main protagonists are separated. The action switches between the two boys having a good time in the car and Bacon’s sheriff trying to manage the situation and keep his secret side line quiet. It is the contrast between the carefree attitude of the boys, which is all laughter and smiles, and the stony faced determination of what is definitely a bad man.
Bacon is superb in a role that calls for few words to be spoken. It’s all about the actions. Sporting a rather dapper handlebar mustache and a swagger that only comes from the knowledge that he is the alpha male, the character of the sheriff is disclosed to the audience in the effective opening scene. Casually drinking a beer and stripping off his work shirt he proceeds to haul a body off into the bushes to dispose of it. The performance is measured and assured. He knows what he is doing and just what he is passing on to the viewer.
The two boys, James Freedson-Jackson and Hays Wellford, are both very natural in their portrayals. They have the look and feel of young boys who have few cares in the world. At first we see them trading rude words as part of a game. It is a game of dare that continues as they find and then drive the car. They push each other on until they eventually start to mess about with the firearms in the back seat of the car. Their ensuing reaction as the situation starts to escalate in the third act is in keeping with their prior behaviour and feels totally in character.
Overall, a tense and absorbing drama. Recommended.