From Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and executive producers Mark Wahlberg and Stephen Levinson comes Stealing Cars, a dramatic critique of the juvenile detention system in America that everyone should go see.
The protagonist, Billy Wyatt, played by Emory Cohen, is a smart aleck whose criminal behavior lands him in the Bernville Camp for Boys, where he has to contend with tough inmates and a less than sympathetic staff. His witty antics and disregard for authority wins over the inmates as well as a confusing love interest in the troubled Nurse Simms, played by Heather Lind. The rest of the staff fails to control Billy with the same corrupt system that has failed and hardened all the other boys, who have isolated themselves according to their respective races.
Cohen does a great job of playing Billy, making up for a lot of unanswered questions we have about Billy’s past. Cohen actually almost does too well of a job as Billy often comes off as enough of a jerk for us to want to see him be punished. We find out that Billy is a sort of genius through his photographic memory. We also gradually learn that Billy began to act out as a result of a family tragedy. Besides that, the back stories of the characters are left empty. Billy’s parents, played by William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman, have small roles leaving the audience to have to assume their relationships, specifically his relationship with his mother which comes up in multiple scenes. Still, the actors did a good job of portraying believable characters.
John Leguizamo does a great job as the seemingly compassionate, somewhat untrustworthy warden. Mike Epps, although not heavily involved, gives one of the best performances as an accidentally funny local sheriff who offers Billy tough advice.
My main problem with Stealing Cars was that it cut corners regarding logic in order to further the plot. The biggest being that Jeff Lima’s character Carlos, the camp alpha dog, due to his connections with the Mexican Mafia, somehow had his own underground lounge where he could do drugs without consequence. Billy’s first escape from the camp, a scene in which we go from watching Billy look at Nurse Simms attempt to close her trunk to then seeing him get out of her trunk at a bar, was also beyond reason. Then there’s the warden, who makes cleaning his car an incentive job for well-behaved inmates eventually letting Billy, a car thief, work on his car. Of course, Billy eventually takes advantage of this opportunity in a moment that leads to the films climax, leaving watchers to wonder why the warden would do that in the first place.
Overall the film was a fun watch, mixing genuine moments of emotion with those of laughter. Director Bradley Kaplan and his cast do an admirable job of getting to the films ultimate point of reform in detention centers, despite any missteps in logic.
Stealing Cars is definitely worth seeing in theaters, as it will be until April 7, in Los Angeles and New York theaters. On April 5, the film will also be released on DVD and Digital.