Cops. Nobody likes them until something happens and they can’t get to you fast enough. It’s not easy, either. You spend your days wondering if the next stop you make will be the one that takes you out until you finally get so jaded that everyone you see becomes a potential perpetrator. While there are definitely police who abuse their power, most are just people looking for a good wage and pension, maybe even to make a difference in their neighborhoods, never expecting to crack under the constant stress of their daily lives. In a fantastic feature debut, writer/director Joel Souza portrays the gritty reality of police work with Crown Vic.
Ray (Thomas Jane) is a 20 year veteran of the LAPD assigned to train Nick (Luke Kleintank), a rookie fresh out of the academy, on his very first day. The ominous threat of violent bank robbers joy-killing police lingers in the background, punctuating every stop they make throughout the night. After the obligatory bit of hazing, the two officers build a bond. Right or wrong, they have each other’s back, and they have to because either one of them or both can die at a moment’s notice. Through the course of their night, they learn from each other, Nick looking up to Ray’s experience and questioning his revision of regulations while at the same time reminding the older cop of who he once was and why he signed up in the first place. Through the course of their night, they face dangers both mortal and absurd, though throughout, a personal issue keeps chasing Ray. Eventually, it overtakes him and their journey.
“The ominous threat of violent bank robbers joy-killing police lingers in the background, punctuating every stop they make…”
A truly astounding work from beginning to end, Souza has taken an old trope and played with it to make a gripping, exciting narrative that personifies its subjects rather than judging them. They make choices, and they have to live with them. Whether we agree with them or not, we at least understand their motivations and can relate somewhat because they are whole characters and not cardboard uniforms. An obvious comparison would be Training Day, but it’s not an accurate one. This is about a day in the life of the average LAPD officer and, while certain actions reek of corruption, it never quite gets to that level. Rather, it recalls the storytelling of Michael Mann’s early work, where good people can do bad things, and bad people can actually be sympathetic characters.
The acting ranks at a superb level rarely seen these days. Jane is simply unrecognizable in his role as Ray, while Kleintank’s Nick perfectly balances wide-eyed naivety with a strong sense of right and wrong. Perhaps most surprising, though is David Krumholtz as Stroke, the enabling partner of Jack, a psychopathic cop impeccably played by Josh Hopkins. In his role, Kromholtz blends the laughing thing on Jabba the Hutt’s shoulder with a bit of Tom Savini’s brutality in his biker role in Dawn of the Dead, showing a range that he’s only now revealing.
“A truly astounding work from beginning to end…”
Issues? Well, the only complaint, and this is a very minor one, is that some of the revelations made throughout the course of the story don’t exactly come as surprises. Maybe they’re not meant to be, either, though usually, these things should make you slap your forehead in astonishment. Instead, you see them coming, and people can actually be walking cliches, which adds to the realism.
Joel Souza hasn’t reinvented the wheel with Crown Vic, but he has definitely sent it down a different road. Most of us go about our daily lives never even considering the sacrifices people make to keep us safe. This film puts that reality in our faces and forces us to question all our preconceived notions about who lives behind the uniform and shield. When it comes to police, there are definitely issues that need to be addressed and an internal culture that needs to be rebuilt from the ground up, but respect is also a two-way street. Crown Vic reminds us that there are people in those uniforms.
Crown Vic (2019) Directed by Joel Souza. Written by Joel Souza. Starring Thomas Jane, Luke Kleintank, Gregg Bello, Josh Hopkins, David Krumholtz and Bridget Moynahan.
9 out of 10 stars