In a fundamental sense, Cop Car more or less exemplifies contemporary independent filmmaking. Reminiscent of 2013’s Blue Ruin by way of modest scale yielding the utmost impact, soon-to-be Marvel upstart Jon Watts’ second directorial outing is a lean telling of two youngsters’ fateful joyride. In a manner one would expect, the runaway boys’ naive exuberance and general lack of worldly knowledge lead them down a road of seedy uncertainty paved by a shady smalltown sheriff (Kevin Bacon). As the plot thickens, our protagonists’ fate becomes increasingly uncertain when they’re forced to face the facts and hone up to their unfortunate misdeed.
It becomes apparent early on that Watts and co-writer Christopher D. Ford have aptly sidestepped the hurdles of budgetary restrictions via basal incisiveness and intelligence. Kids will be kids time and again, and Cop Car admirably takes the time to hammer across the gleefully unseasoned mentality of Travis and Harrison with a convincing recital of every known curse word in the former’s arsenal. From here a darkly comedic mean streak ensues, even when Bacon’s Sheriff Kretzer is shoving a lifeless body into a hole prior to the front-and-center fiasco.
As with comparably small-scale efforts, Cop Car largely succeeds thanks to a sense of situational awareness that covers all of it bases. Barring the intended authenticity of the youthful ignorance on display, moments involving the sheriff’s apparent desperation and subsequent actions are concise, convincing and engaging as such. Whether its a matter of avoiding recognition or merely stealing a car with the help of a shoelace, the script remains entirely resourceful in wringing the most out of itself.
Despite derailing itself with a decidedly dark string of conclusive happenings, Jon Watts’ sophomore directorial outing is one of considerable note in the realm of the increasingly rare indie genre effort. In wringing considerable engagement out of its blend of dreadful uncertainty and black humor, Cop Car isn’t so much a pinnacle of excellence as it is a competently realized slice of storytelling within an expanding cinematic niche. In a roundabout way, the film speaks to Watts’ resourcefulness as a burgeoning talent to behold and – if MCU fatigue hasn’t fully set in on your part as it has mine – it’ll be interesting to see what a monetary well of possibility will steer him toward creatively in his handling of Spider-Man.