Blu-ray Review: Cop Car (2015)

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Trading curse words over rationed beef jerky, two bored runaway boys play a game of gradually escalating dares. The pre-teens get much more than they bargained for however when they apply the logic of Finder's Keepers to a seemingly abandoned squad car they've stumbled onto in the middle of a rural Colorado field shortly into this startlingly original sleeper.

Knowing that they haven't been gone long enough for somebody have called the authorities to track them down, the boys quickly move from challenging one another to touch the car to hopping inside for a joy ride.

Taking the opportunity to change the point-of-view, Cop Car helmer Jon Watts moves the narrative backwards in time. Revealing just who and what is waiting for the boys on the other side of the thin blue line, it becomes clear that our young leads have unknowingly set foot inside a real world version of cops and robbers that's far more gray than black and white.

Thin, wiry, and wide-eyed, as the conniving sheriff with his head on a swivel who's up to no good, star and producer Kevin Bacon turns in one of his creepiest villainous performances since he first blew memories of Footloose sky-high while terrorizing Meryl Streep twenty five years ago in The River Wild as a self-described "different kind of nice guy."

Cop Car is fast-paced by necessity and design. And although it's easy to get so caught up in the increasingly nerve-wracking storyline that you lose sight of the way the film sets up future twists and turns to come — most notably through inventive camera angles which call extra attention to the police cruiser's trunk — Cop hooks you from the start nonetheless.

On par with The Gift as one of 2015’s strongest independent thrillers since the previous year's Blue Ruin and Cold in July, this word-of-mouth film festival favorite serves as a vital reminder that great storytelling will always trump costly special effects.

Yet while film buffs can spot traces of Duel, Stand By Me, and Blood Simple in Cop Car's structural, spiritual, and stylistic DNA, by embracing the innocence of its characters as opposed to taking an unrealistic Kick-Ass style shortcut to let them incredulously succumb to the violence, Watts' work remains refreshingly unique.

Never straying too far from darkly realist, Neo Noir terrain, Watts and his stellar team on both sides of the screen refuse to betray their vision or let Cop Car's limited budget get in the way of the tale they’ve dreamed of telling.

Creatively firing on all cylinders while coming up with unexpected ways to bring the action to a head, similar to the way that the titular discovery surprised our talented, young leads in the first act, Cop Car is sure to sneak up on you.

A thrilling Bacon anchored vehicle that demands you buckle up tight, Cop Car is a Finder's Keeper indeed, even if, like all movies (and road trips alike), it’s best enjoyed when you bring others along for the ride.

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