Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
“Cop Land” will leave many viewers (like myself) still scratching their heads over what to think. It lies in the land of mediocrity—it’s not a great movie, but it’s not terrible, either. Much hype surrounds Sylvester Stallone’s bid to be a “serious” actor. Unfortunately, there are some movies that just don’t work with marquee actors. The yearly Sundance Film Festival in Utah has been affected by Hollywood, and the continued mainstreaming and diluting of Miramax is evidence of it.
“Cop Land” is the story of a small town sheriff named Freddy (Stallone), who tries to keep the peace in the face of corruption. This particular New Jersey town, run by a crooked cop named Donlan (Harvey Keitel) with help from the mob, is supposedly a picket-fence suburbia for the NYPD Blue. Some of the corruption surfaces when Donlan’s nephew, Babitch (Michael Rapaport), is involved in questionable circumstances.
This is director James Mangold’s number two try, after the obscure little-known film “Heavy”. In accordance with the laws of the “Sophomore Slump,” all the symptoms are there:
One of the bad cops is named Figgis (Ray Liotta)—as in Mike Figgis, who directed the similarly-themed “Internal Affairs”. Stallone’s sheriff is hearing impaired (explained in the movie) and there lies some distorted, near-silent sound effects editing straight out of Figgis’s “Leaving Las Vegas”.
Big time Martin Scorcese influence, obvious by the casting of Robert De Niro as an NYPD internal affairs investigator and Cathy Moriarty as Keitel’s wife (who might be unfaithful, but it’s not really explained).
Janeane Garofalo, cast against type as Stallone’s partner, is not a serious dramatic actress, and she’s practically useless here. Why didn’t they just cut her out of the clip, and leave her on the cutting room floor?
Minor tip of the hat to “High Noon”—yes, the classic Western. There are so many directions “Cop Land” takes, it’s hard to know where to follow. I must say, though, if this were a long, three-hour movie, I would have enjoyed it more, because there would have been time for the different characters and secondary stories to develop. Two hours is simply insufficient for this material.
“Cop Land” is rated “R” for constant swearing and profanity, and some surprisingly violent (and bloody) shoot-em-ups towards the end. It is a good movie about morality and the integrity of law enforcement, but it could have been ever so much better.
Year of Release—1997