Cop Land (15)

Directed by James Mangold
Starring Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Michael Rapaport, Robert Patrick, Anabella Sciorra, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo

Wow! Look at that cast! This film has a very big build up due to its starry cast and Stallone's attempt at holding his own with some of actings biggest guns. Writer and director Mangold has produced an interesting and well made tale of a small town GArrison, New Jersey- that has become a haven for New York's finest- cops of the 37th precinct. Sheriff Freddie Heflin(Stallone) is an amiable seemingly slow witted yes-man for lead rogue cop Ray(Keitel- brilliant as usual.) When young policeman Murray(Rapaport) impulsively kills two black joy riders, he begins a sequence of events that begins with his own apparent suicide, and then leads to the unravelling of the organized world of Cop Land. Internal Affairs cop Moe Tilden(DeNiro) arrives to ask for Freddie's help.Another cop Figgis(Liotta), a former right hand man of Ray's gets his house burnt down and starts Freddie off on a search for the truth. Also bubbling under is Freddie's unrequited love for Sciorra- who is married to another cop, but whose husband is having an affair with Ray's wife.
This complex story is both a strength and a weakness in a way. The characters are well drawn and the relationships complex and convoluted, but the problem is that there are simply too many different story lines. Consequently, most of the characters are introduced but not really developed, and there are many storylines not explored. This leaves you with a rather unbalanced film.
The starry cast also unbalances things. Stallone is fine in a Rocky-ish role. He mainly keeps a blank look on his face, and leaves the acting and overacting to others. This is fine, as Stallone emoting all over the place too would have been a bit much. What with Keitel doing his usual excellent menace, Liotta getting excited and emotional a lot and DeNiro doing that grinning and shouting that is just like a cop version of Rupert Pupkin, Stallone's stillness is a blessed relief. He is onscreen for almost the entire film, while Keitel and DeNiro's roles are actually quite small. Liotta is probably the most impressive of the stars. Like Stallone, he looks to have bulked up a bit, and while we never quite trust him, he is the most sympathetic of the NY cops on view. He has a nasty bit highly original punch up which involved a dart and someones nose that brings water to your eyes!
Also worth mentioning are a couple of the younger supporting stars. Michael Rapaport is developing into a fine actor. His actions are the catalyst for the events in the film. All the way through there was this really nasty looking cop with piercing eyes and a bushy moustache who definitely gave me the creeps. It was only during the end credits that I realized it was Robert Patrick- the T-1000 terminator that chased Arnie and Sarah in T2. A memorable villain. At this point I think I should mention that there were feeble women's roles. Sciorra was little more than love interest, and an inconstant one at that. The great Janeane Garofalo got about 5 lines, but the actree who played Ray's wife(don't know who she was but she looked a bit like Blythe Danner) had about the most to do. Crappy women's roles? What a surprise!!
I enjoyed the story a lot and the performances were OK(although I still reckon DeNiro is overrated.) However, the film promised so much more, and because of the calibre of the actors, much more was expected. This is still a competant and original police/crime thriller. It was unpredictable- a rare thing for a Hollywood thriller. I liked Stallone's character, but it was funny seeing him as a bit of a has-been. Near the end especially I felt like shouting, "Arrest them!" or "Shoot them!" After all, you don't expect Stallone to just take abuse. When Freddie is spurred into the inevitable climactic shoot out, it is filmed in an unusual way, and is, thankfully, relatively brief.
An enjoyable, if complicated crime drama, that slightly disappoints due to the high quality of personel involved, Nevertheless I like it. 7/10.

December 1997

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