Cop Car

[3.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

Reviewer's note: the best movie I've seen this year. So far.

The plot device is ingenious: two small-town kids run away from home, out into the rural wilderness, as kids do at times. Hiking cross-country, they come across a … police vehicle, apparently abandoned. Daring each other, they work up a foolish mutual courage. First to touch it, then to get into it, and—hey, the keys are here!—then to start it up and …

Little do the kids know (but we do, because of a flashback): the car is there because Sheriff Kevin Bacon parked it in an out-of-the-way location, the better to dispose of a body. Immediately we suspect that this is not normal good police procedure, even out in the boonies. And we're right: when he returns for his vehicle, he is nonplussed to find it not found. He immediately realizes this makes his life a whole lot more complicated, as he needs to retrieve the car, hide its loss from the inquisitive dispatcher (voiced by Kyra Sedgwick, Kevin's wife), and probably murder the kids to cover things up. Sticky!

Well, things get interesting from there. We don't learn much about anyone's back-story, and the ending is slightly ambiguous, but that's OK. I stayed awake through the whole thing, and that's getting to be my standard of quality movie-making.

The Classical Liberal Constitution

[Amazon Link]

Let it be said that if I ever find myself needing a Constitution for a new country, I would try to get Richard Epstein to write it.

As always, many thanks to Dimond Library at the University Near Here for wangling this book on a loan from Williams College. Otherwise, getting it from Amazon would have set me back $52.50 (or $44.99 for the Kindle version).

It is a doorstop of a book, 684 pages in all, with 583 pages of main text. And it's not particularly easy going for those of us whose acquaintance with US Constitutional law is scattershot and amateurish. For just one example, I was stopped by the phrase ultra vires on page 130—what's that mean? (It means, as it turns out, "beyond the powers": the Supreme Court refusing to rule on the constitutionality of legislation, because the plaintiffs could not show they were directly harmed by the legislation, hence had no standing to bring the case. But I had to Google.)

The book itself is a sweeping analysis of contentious Constitutional issues over the centuries. Epstein's thesis is that the Constitution can be, and should be, interpreted in light of its philosophical underpinnings: specifically, the theory of classical liberalism as expounded by John Locke and the other thinkers influencing the original authors. Epstein shows that efforts by both progressives and conservatives to explicate other theories of constitutional interpretation have led us to our current muddle.

Epstein's primary target is the "progressive" side: the stretched-beyond-credibility interpretations of Constitutional clauses that have allowed the Federal government to legislate in matters properly left to the states, or to the citizenry.

Not all of Epstein's arguments will find favor with current-day conservatives/libertarians, however. For example, he reads the Second Amendment to limit the Federal power over state militias. (Noting the previous mentions of "militia" in Article I, Section 8 and Article II, Section 2.)

All in all, I learned stuff. Not as much as I could have, or probably should have. As I've said before (but about a different author): "when I say I "read" it, what I mean is: I looked at just about every page, honest."