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With: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Rapaport, Robert Patrick, Peter Berg, Anabella Sciorra, Cathy Moriarty, Noah Emmerich, John Spencer, Frank Vincent, Malik Yoba, Arthur J. Nascarella, Edie Falco, Deborah Harry
Written by: James Mangold
Directed by: James Mangold
MPAA Rating: R for violence, strong language and brief nudity
Running Time: 116
Date: 08/06/1997

Cop Land (1997)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Share and Sheriff Alike

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Nowadays it seems like some movies are created with predetermined responses from the critics in mind.

The main focus of the Cop Land publicity is Sylvester Stallone, in his first real acting role since Rocky. And he still has the goods, which is why Rocky is still such a beloved film. Stallone is a real movie star, someone who's face and persona we enjoy watching from film to film -- even when he makes big, dumb action movies. In Cop Land, he is just as effortless, but this time, his performance is more intellectually as well as emotionally satisfying.

As Sheriff Freddy, Stallone uses his eyes, hands and body mass in new and different ways to convey his sadness, confusion, and longing. It's a great role and a great performance by any standards, and it's safe to say he deserves his second Oscar nomination. There, I've said it. I hope the publicity people are happy.

Now, onto the rest of the movie. Writer and director James Mangold came up with the interesting idea of a town seated on the outskirts of New York City; a town full of cops, and owned and operated by cops (some of them crooked). But he puts this idea to use in the most pedestrian way. It's the typical Capra-esque story of the little guy taking on the big guys. Indeed, Mangold's script is full of patriotic speeches rather than actual dialogue.

The saddest thing, however, is that Mangold went to so much trouble to give Stallone a good role, but he forgot to write good parts for Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Annabella Sciorra and Cathy Moriarity -- all of whom get the exact same kinds of roles they've been playing for ten years or more. Even the talented and scene stealing Janeane Garofalo is pretty much wasted here. Mangold seems to have a case of Martin Scorsese-hero-worship, as four of his actors are Scorsese vets, and all four play very similar roles to their Scorsese counterparts. Ray Liotta's character even snorts coke, reminiscent of his GoodFellas character.

Even worse, Cop Land boasts the first teaming of Keitel and De Niro in 21 years (since Taxi Driver), and the scene falls flat. It looks like it was shot on different days; the actors never appear in the same frame at the same time (except for a reflection in a window that looks doctored). It would have been great to see these actors playing off each other, and not just a blank wall.

I would say that if you're a Stallone fan, and managed to sit through Judge Dredd or Daylight without wincing, you'll love Cop Land, but the film is certainly not as inspired as its lead actor is.

DVD Details: For the company's 25th anniversary, Miramax has unearthed some of its mid-90s work and released it on refurbished DVDs in 2004. The Cop Land DVD comes with deleted scenes with optional commentary, the shootout storyboard sequence, a behind the scenes featurette, and a commentary track by Mangold, Stallone, actor Robert Patrick and producer Cathy Konrad. The film is presented in 1-to-1.85 widescreen with 5.1 Dolby sound and an optional French language track.

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