Cop Land (1997) Directed by James Mangold. With Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro, Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick, Peter Berg and Annabella Sciorra.
Written and directed by James Mangold, Cop Land is a crime drama-thriller about corruption in a New Jersey community populated by policeman. Sylvester Stallone takes top-billing in a cast that looks more like a list of Oscar night ‘Best Actor’ nominations. Frustratingly, this is the film that people refer to when they say – “Who says Stallone can’t act!?” – like Rocky never existed.
Stallone fits well as Freddy, the sheriff of the suburban town, Garrison – an upstanding, honest man hemmed in and expected to look the other way by members of the local police force with links to the mob. Sharing the screen with acting talent like Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta – Stallone does a great job of being the sturdy rock at the centre of the piece. Just like in Rocky, he’s the guy we’re rooting for – the underdog, underestimated and not given due respect, partly due to him being deaf in one ear (a disability incurred during a daring rescue that has prevented him from becoming a New York cop).
With such an impressive cast assembled (fans of The Sopranos might recognise a few familiar faces), the intertwining story involves multiple characters and subtexts and is admirably written and directed by Mangold. You have to properly tune-in to keep up, but its well-worth the effort as the plot thickens and tensions are raised.
This being a film about cops in New Jersey, the female representation is at a minimum. Anabella Sciorra is a downtrodden woman in need of rescue, while Edie Falco and Janeane Garofalo are token cops, along for the ride.
Perhaps some of what occurs is unlikely, but if we start applying too much real-world logic to things, movies like this can become awfully dull, awfully fast. What we have is a first-rate cast (De Niro, Liotta and Keitel are all superb) working with a solid plot which is further elevated by the sympathetic presence of Stallone. 4/5