1997 - R - 104 Mins.
|Director: James Mangold|
|Producer: Cary Woods|
|Written By: James Mangold|
|Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Robert Patrick |
|Review by: John Ulmer
All corrupt cop movies have been borrowing from "Serpico" (1973) for as long as I can remember. The formula is getting old. Then along came "Cop Land," a refreshingly inventive and convincing spin on the same old routine. Throwing in a heap of wonderful actors into the mix never hurts, either. Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel? I coulda sworn this would have been directed by Scorsese...
Hey, Sly, do ya mind?
"Cop Land" focuses on a small town bordering New "Jouzee" named Garrison (which supposedly has a killer view of New York). However, the town is overlooked by corrupt cops that rule with an iron fist, and are in turn ruled by the Mafia in New York. But beefy cop Sylvester Stallone is tired of looking the other way when something happens. "I look at this town, and I don't like what I see," mutters his overweight character. Harvey Keitel, a "real" cop versus Stallone's sheriff, replies saying, "Who do you think you are?" That is the turning point for Stallone's character. He turns to New York cop Robert De Niro for help. And Sly's best buddy on the force, Ray Liotta, eventually helps him to put a finish to the town's unfortunate rulers in a shoot-out ending.
"Cop Land" isn't a great movie, but it is very entertaining, and the powerhouse ending is terrifically and refreshingly noble, not to mention that we are rooting for the good guy all the way. It's sublime, in short, although somewhat flawed.
Sylvester Stallone seems to give one of his best performances in a long time. Stallone has recently been starring in a lot of a) flops or b) just plain stupid movies. Now, his career seems to have pretty much ended thanks to box office failures such as the disastrous "Driven" and the laughable "Get Carter."
This film proves that somewhere in that bulk of a man he has a little bit of acting talent. It's interesting to note that Stallone purposely and perfectly gained a bit of weight for this role--it's more believable this way. Having some muscular cop in a small town would be a bit...odd. (Although I'd be rooting for Arnie, overweight or not, if he took on the role.)
The supporting cast is not just "above good." It's excellent. Robert De Niro isn't in the film more than fifteen to twenty minutes total, but that's kind of nice. They didn't go overboard on his character--it seems that De Niro is actually playing the character instead of the character playing Robert De Niro. What I mean by this is that the filmmakers didn't write out a bigger role for his character, Moe, when they found out De Niro was pegged for it. I don't like when scripts are obviously rewritten around a certain actor (was Swayze's out-of-place, written cameo in "Havana Nights: Dirty Dancing 2" really needed?). Seeing De Niro in a supporting role is not only interesting to watch, but somehow refreshingly humble.
Harvey Keitel handles his role quite nicely, also, and is very believable and hateable as the corrupt cop. And like De Niro, he was not transformed into the main character. Though he has much more screentime than De Niro, Keitel is not the lead character--Stallone is. This is his journey and hey, for the first time since 1976 we're actually feeling for him.
Ray Liotta manages to impress once again with his role of another slightly overweight man who is tired of Garrison and just wants to get out. Alive.
Robert Patrick, the T-1000 in "Terminator 2," is creepy as always - his "T2" character seems to still be showing through a bit when he plays this role.
"Cop Land" isn't a great film per se, but the ending is refreshingly right for once. It's not politically-correct, nor is it arrogant and disappointing. It's good to see something good happen on screen once and a while. The filmmakers don't give us a character we don't care about in shoot-out situations. They first introduce the characters to us, let us begin to see their qualities, and then at the end they throw them in a shoot-out and we all know who we're rooting for and why.
The ending is one of the best things about this above-average thriller.
All in all I enjoyed "Cop Land" more than "Serpico" for a number of reasons. But above all else it's a pleasant twist on the formula, and I enjoyed it the second time around much more than I had the first time. As for the ending? It stands in my book as one of the most satisfying--and yet strangely convincing--of all time. Don't miss this one.