Movie Review

Cop Land

Reviewed by: Brian Nigro
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Drama
Length:
107 min.
R

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Rappaport and Annabella Sciorra / Director: James Mangold / Released by: Miramax

“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

Viewer Comments
I liked the overall message of this movie. Even if you must do it alone, do the right thing, and for law enforcement, no one’s above the law. It was great to see Sly return to a “Rocky I” type character of a common man who can rise above a difficult situation. I believe the “strip club” scene has become as common place as the “overturned fruit cart,” I wish Hollywood would drop this fasination.
—Ben Stroud, age 36
“Cop Land” was pretty good. It got under my skin. The only trustworthy character was Stallone's. I did not trust anyone else in the movie. I like attention grabbing films like this. This is a good film for mature adult Christians to see.
—Chris Utley, age 24
I saw this movie not expecting too much, but came out pretty entertained. It moved slow for a while but I thought it really picked up. I think Stallone did a great job and I look forward to seeing him in another role like this one. The biggest disappointment to me was seeing the female cop played by Janine Garofalo, leave. I understand that the character was scared, but I would have liked to see something more happen with her character since I think she’s a great actress. I think the reason they did this was so Stallone’s character had to do everything on his own and made it more of a challenge.
—Peter Wright, age 21
Did you guys forget about the short strip club scene?! This movie did promote honesty but it did not promote abstinence. Other than that is was just your normal Stallone movie…
—Krystal Koop, age 15
“Cop Land” was not near as good a movie as I suspected, but had many original scenes and great actors which made the movie worth seeing.
—Mike, age 16
“Copland” was only an average movie that was a disappointment. I am certain that these things did happen albeit a composite of 3 seperate instances of corruption in different cities, nonetheless cops are viewed as more dishonest than the mob. The vulgarity gets on your nerves and Ray Liotta has never looked or acted more poorly. Sylvester Stallone tried so hard to be taken as a serious actor but he fared better in the comedy “Oscar”. His appeal in this movie was more like the Milne character, Eeyore. Watch his facial expressions! Actually, don’t waste your money! My husband liked the flick, except for vulgarity; so if yo really think you must see this movie—wait for the cheap theatres or at least go at matinee prices.
—candace holtsbery, age 30s
I thought that “Cop Land” was a very good movie, and was surprised when I saw it; it wasn’t the seventies action knockoff I thought it would be, but an entertaining drama with an interesting plot. Harvey Keitel delivered another fine performance, and Sly was good in his unusual role. Highly recommended, unless you can’t bear to hear the constant strong language.
Milo Lydon, age 16