Crown Vic (Joel Souza, 2019) 2 out of 4 stars.
A police thriller with few police and fewer thrills, Crown Vic nevertheless offers a few rewards for the patient viewer, though these come wrapped in a derivative package that recalls Antoine Fuqua’s far better 2001 Training Day, among other films. Thomas Jane (1922) plays Ray Mandel, a veteran officer assigned to break in Nick Holland, a rookie cop played by Luke Kleintank (Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle). Neither are happy with the arrangement, as Mandel has other things on his mind and Holland is a little too eager for action to listen to a grizzled old-timer laugh at his procedural mindset. In the grand tradition of misfit buddy dramas, they don’t get along, until circumstances force them to at least get it together.
It’s a nighttime patrol in Los Angeles (the movie’s title comes from the car model used by the LAPD), and there’s not always a lot to do, so Mandel and Holland drive around, talking … a lot. Fortunately, the actors hold our interest, as does some of the dialogue from writer/director Joel Souza (Break Night). Unfortunately, that’s often not enough, and conversations devolve too frequently into exposition. Mandel is also inconsistent as a character, sometimes verging on a bully, at other times suddenly compassionate. Yes, human beings are wildly erratic beings, but as a dramatic device his unevenness makes it difficult to understand his motivations.
Until, that is, the plot picks up momentum with a seeming side plot that erupts into the foreground towards the end. Another secondary story follows suit, the two parallel tales intersecting our meandering drive-along in a brutal spasm of violence. After so much melancholy patter, the action comes as somewhat of a relief, though not all developments are equally well-structured. The duo of killer thieves who open the film and then close it, and occasionally pop up at intervals, have little to nothing to do with the surrounding narrative, and their final appearance feels purely coincidental, though we figured they had to show up, at some point. And that’s about how it works in Crown Vic: parts of genuine interest embedded in a prosaic structure.