Crown Vic

***

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Crown Vic
"The action scenes here are well handled and there are some interesting observations about how technological developments have changed the nature of policing." | Photo: Thomas Stanton

Is there still anything new to be said about US policing? That's the key question faced by Joel Souza's noirish cop drama, which follows a grizzled veteran [check] as he trains up a wide-eyed new recruit [check] and shows him that, ultimately, there are no heroes [check]. There are the usual corrupt cops, philosophical discussions and intermittent episodes of extreme violence. Perhaps inevitably, the trained manoeuvres cops use mean that whole sequences look like shot-for-shot clones of previous work. None of these problems are really Souza's fault and for what it is, the film is well made, but it's difficult to guess what might have persuaded him to take it on where there's nothing else to mark it out.

If there's anything that distinguishes the film, it's the sheer quantity of anecdotes that older cop Ray (Thomas Jane) packs in behind the wheel. There's enough here for a series or two of TV cop shows, and though some are pretty formulaic, others have the rough, you-had-to-be-there quality of real life experiences, leading one to suspect that a good bit of this material has come straight from the source. It's delivered well, Jane keeping his performance low key until a twist in the plot sees his character begin to ignore the rules that he's been endorsing. Opposite him, as the newbie cop, Luke Kleintank is proficient and likeable but never strays from formula. The scene-stealing turn comes from Josh Hopkins as a cop for whom the badge is basically just a excuse to exercise psychopathic extremes of rage. He's more effective because of the mundanity of most of the events around him, yet one can't help but feel that if we saw a little more of him then the film would make for more engaging viewing.

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Events here are bookended by warnings from Ray that what happens in the squad car (the Crown Vic of the title) should stay in the squad car. In part this refers to cops covering up for other cops but it's also about managing emotional baggage. The younger cop is married with his first child on the way. Ray has the kind of personal life typical of older cops in films. The array of damaged people they meet over the course of their evening illustrates how easy it is to screw up. Some of their encounters are played for laughs; others are just ugly, but appropriately so. Souza effectively gets across what many real cops bitch about: that a large percentage of their time is spent dealing with people who are just stupid. The trouble is that when any random stupid person might have a gun, there's never an opportunity to relax even for a moment.

The action scenes here are well handled and there are some interesting observations about how technological developments have changed the nature of policing. A central plot strand concerning a bank robbery is neatly woven through it to create a sense of cohesion. Why Souza has chosen to set the film in Los Angeles is a bit of a mystery given that it's quite visibly shot in New York and some local colour might have enhance its interest. Overall, it's a very nicely made film, but its familiarity is likely to limit its audience potential and mean that Souza's talent won't get the recognition it deserves.

Reviewed on: 03 Nov 2019
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Over the course of a single night, two police officers at opposite ends of their careers find themselves thrust into a violent hunt for two cop killers on the loose in the Olympic Division of Los Angeles.

Festivals:

Tribeca 2019

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The Corruptor
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