After stealing an unoccupied cop car (belonging to a crooked cop who’s burying his murder victim when his squad car’s boosted by the runts), two Darwin Award competitors, who, being around the age of 10, can barely see over the steering wheel, take a short-sighted joyride through the desert. Soon, the two little cretins park on a roadside, where they access the cop’s arsenal of firearms.
The two kids in this movie, its central characters, are little more than petty juvenile delinquents. As written, these two were implausibly naive and dimwitted, not sympathetic, charming, or interesting, at all.
The two villains in the story (Keven Bacon and Shea Wigham) were far more interesting and, as clearcut bad guys, their behavior, while monstrous and self-serving, made sense within the context of the story.
The joyriding runaway tykes, however? Just idiots. Dull idiots, at that.
First neat thing they do? One dons a bulletproof vest so his sociopathic friend can test-fire an AR-15 into it. Little William Tell can’t figure out the weapon has a safety, so he’s unable to get it to fire.
How does he try to ‘fix’ the weapon? Does he look it over and discover the plain-as-day SELECTOR SWITCH on the left side of the weapon, just above the trigger, with the words SAFE and FIRE stamped into the metal? Nah. His only thought is to LOOK DOWN ITS BARREL WHILE SHAKING IT. I guess, so…if it fires, he can see the bullet coming and…move his face out of the way and not get shot?
As I said: Darwin Award contestant.
So we have one pint-sized moron who thinks it’d be cool to shoot somebody he supposedly likes in the chest with an AR-15 to test the bullet-deflecting properties of kevlar. Then we have, his fellow runaway, another pint-sized halfwit who pretty much goes along with whatever his sociopathic j.d. buddy wants.
We see the weaker kid refuse to repeat the word “fuck” when his friend goads him to, but the weaker kid WILL stand perfectly still wearing the Kevlar vest so his alleged friend can fire an AR-15 at him at from ten feet away.
With central characters this clueless, callous, idiotic, and/or weak, why should I give two shits about them? I haven’t hated two central characters this much since I suffered through that micro-budget apocalyptic zombie movie The Battery (horribly disappointing movie).
Later, when the trigger-happy, gun-ignorant kid tries to shoot out the windows of the cop car to escape, a ricochet round catches him in the gut. Considering the ham-fisted overkill of the “children with guns” imagery the filmmakers had already loaded the film with, I predicted that moment lonnnnng before it arrived.
Since I’d given up on rooting, or caring, for either of these little miscreants…because they were so blatantly stupid and alien to me in every way…my reaction, instead of startled shock, was a muted “oh, gee, who would’ve seen that coming?”. These were plot devices, not characters.
The movie ends with the weaker Darwin Award contestant driving the titular Cop Car 80 m.p.h. at night, with the headlights off– because, even though these two brain- farts had all day to fool around with this car, they hadn’t been able to discover how to work the headlights. They figured out how to work the car’s lightbar and radio, but not the headlights.
Perhaps a five-year-old could be this ignorant of automobiles, but, come on, a ten-year-old? These kids quickly learned the difference between the gas and brake pedals, but couldn’t locate the headlights?
I suspect the writer and director thought the visual of having the cop car driving at night on a lonely desert highway…with only its red-and-blue flashers illuminating the road…would be cool and that was it. End of story. I truly believe that was the only reason for this element’s inclusion in the film, regardless of how reckless and dumb-ass it made the character look.
I believe I know why they had these two juveniles thoughtlessly messing around with firearms they never figured out well enough to fire (that is, until the story was almost over):
1) To make the audience cringe. Not hard to do.
2) To keep the kids vulnerable to the menace of the crooked cop and the hostage drug dealer they find locked in the cop’s trunk.
These kids behaved with consistent stupidity simply to keep the desired plot moving.
If the kids had figured out the safety switches on the AR-15 and the pump shotgun taken from the cop’s car, they wouldn’t have been as helpless anymore.
The filmmakers could have had the two learning the weapons by firing at fence posts, trees, etc, but that might have made their use of the weapons look cool or something. Or made the kids look like they had respect for the weapons as well as respect for human life…which wouldn’t suit the anti-gun sentiment the story seemed to be striving for, would it?
Plus, just hearing the loud report of a gunshot, minus hearing protection, might serve to scare the living hell out of the kids and help them understand just how dangerous these “fun” weapons really are, that they’re not toys.
With fear comes respect.
Unless you’re a clueless halfwit.
Plus, allowing the kids to use these weapons properly, in self-defense against a lethal threat, would only serve to highlight the good firearms can do when bad people come along to do you harm. Can’t have that. Wouldn’t support the anti-gun theme, either.
Nobody in this movie, until its final, predictably tragic moment, uses a firearm in a justifiable, useful manner. Firearms are only shown being used in the service of stupidity and malice, never self-defense.
Better to have the pint-sized halfwits remain ignorant, and, more importantly, at risk, until the crooked cop/drug dealer threat’s been diminished, in order to exploit every possibility of suspense AND to help set up a Sundance-crowd-approved anti-gun statement by having the kid finally figure out the gun only to wound himself with a ricochet.
But, I repeat, when your lead characters are this unsympathetic, uninteresting, and ignorant…who gives a damn?
The juvenile characters in the movie were so poorly written, and their behavior so transparently manipulative in the service of both plot and, presumably, a message, that the film never transcended the level of a hackneyed Thriller with delusions of grandeur.
The movie ends with the cop car speeding off toward the lights of a nearby town on the horizon, as the weak kid drives his wounded friend to a hospital, presumably. Considering what we’ve seen of this character, though, he seems incapable of exercising caution or learning from mistakes, so…
…I imagine the weak kid flies into town doing 80-plus m.p.h. and gets t-boned running a red light because he hasn’t bothered to figure out how the cop car’s brakes work, clueless 10-year-old he appears to be.
Plus, he’s had no experience behind the wheel until this final scene. He’s either going to run pedestrians over, rear-end collide with slower traffic, or miss a turn, slam the brakes and roll the car, killing him just moments after his wounded pal in the back seat’s expired from blood loss or collapsed lungs.
If this movie’s makers didn’t actually have an anti-gun message in mind with their handling of the subject matter, then it really was a completely pointless piece of storytelling. If there was some sort of anti-gun agenda intended, they failed at that, too.