Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Tribeca ’19: Crown Vic

For decades, Ford Motors has been the unchallenged dominant manufacturer of police cars. The Crown Victoria Police Interceptor was the primary reason why. They had a powerful V8, easy handling, and were cheap to repair. It is easy to figure why taxi owners liked to buy the decommissioned cruisers. The LAPD is now phasing out the classic four-door, probably replacing them with hybrids constructed with recycled plastic and good intentions. Officer Ray Mandel is old school when it comes to cars and everything else. His trainee will also appreciate having the Interceptor’s crash-resistant body out in front of them during his long, dark first night on the job in Joel Souza’s Crown Vic, which premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.

Mandel will not haze Nick Holland per se, but he definitely gives him plenty of snark and bark. Rather remarkably, Holland has never seen any action, even though he transferred from Oakland. He is about to get what he asked for, in full force. The night starts with some comically ugly cases, but it will get progressively darker. Mandel might be flexible when it comes to details, but he isn’t crooked. The same cannot be said with confidence of Jack VanZandt, a steroid-raging undercover cop who will be riding in Mandel’s zone this fateful night.

Yes, of course you are thinking Training Day for obvious reasons. However, Mandel will go maverick in very different ways than Denzel Washington did. In fact, we are largely willing to follow him, because of all the escalating hassles and mayhem Souza puts them through. Of course, it defies logic that the two cops could be involved in so many incidents, several of which involving shots fired, without bothering with any reports whatsoever. However, Souza’s narrative is intended as a microcosmic depiction of every that can possibly go wrong in a cop’s night, so go with it.

Thomas Jane has done some interesting work lately in films like 1922 and Before I Wake, but this is still a showcase for him that will surprise people. Somehow, he manages to be simultaneously ferocious and subtle as the hardboiled Mandel. Jane sets off so many fireworks, he largely overshadows Luke Kleintank as freaked out Holland, but he makes the most of it when his rookie character snaps. Josh Hopkins is a spectacular mess as VanZandt, starting out completely off the rails and constantly careening further out of control, while David Krumholtz is quite a creepy little weasel as his bad news partner.

Souza and company do not necessarily want us to be reassured by the prospect of cops like Mandel on the street, but they do try to help us understand their reality. They endure a lot of stress and danger for very little thanks. The Interceptor keeps rolling, but it is a tense ride, which cinematographer Thomas Scott Stanton shoots with the perfect Edward Hopper-from-Hell late-night light and shadow. Highly recommended for fans of cop movies, Crown Vic will definitely come back around after premiering at this year’s Tribeca.