‘Crown Vic’ Review: A Cop Thriller Abounding in Cliché

“Crown Vic” begins in the midst of a kinetic shootout, the camera zipping back and forth as a pair of masked robbers careen away from the L.A.P.D. in a car. But the writer-director Joel Souza soon dissipates the adrenaline rush of this opening into a verbose, hackneyed thriller about a night in the lives of a veteran patrol officer and his trainee.

Souza’s feature plays like an amalgam of the tropes of numerous TV and movie police procedurals. The gruff and jaded older cop, Ray Mandel (Thomas Jane, overdoing the tortured macho routine), is haunted by the recent death of his longtime partner. The idealistic rookie, Nick Holland (Luke Kleintank), is eager to emerge from the shadow of his father — a legend in the force — and be a good family man. “Crown Vic” devotes much screen time to their banter, packing in more clichés per minute of dialogue than you’d think possible.

Souza follows the two leads from call to call where they encounter drunk women, petty vandals, shootings and burned bodies. The cops’ actions teeter on the verge of cruel, but Souza pits them against a cartoonishly violent detective (Josh Hopkins, chewing the scenery), as if to assure us that our protagonists are, all things considered, the good guys. This emerges as the film’s central message when Ray embarks on an extrajudicial errand to find the missing daughter of his former partner. “Crown Vic” sidesteps any genuine ethical consideration of his choices, deploying a melodramatic twist and some grandiose speechifying that seems to respond defensively — and simplistically — to current debates about police brutality.

Crown Vic

Rated R for gratuitous violence and nudity. Running time: 1 hour 50 minutes.

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