Friday, January 21, 2011

Cop Land

Cop Land; Crime drama, USA, 1997; D: James Mangold, S: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, Janeane Garofalo, Annabella Sciorra, Noah Emmerich, Peter Berg, Cathy Moriarty

"Copland" is an eponymous suburb in New Jersey, established to be a "crime free" enclave for police officers. However, mafia found a way to get connections even there. One night, police officer Murray Babitch's car was rammed by two African-Americans who seemed to have a gun. He shot them, but the police investigation is unable to find their gun. His uncle, the corrupt Lt. Ray, plants a gun and stages that Babitch jumped off the bridge into the river, though in reality he was safely hidden in Ray's house in Copland. There, the overweight local sheriff Freddy is contacted by Internal affairs investigator Moe Tilden. Freddy discovers Babitch is alive, but that Ray wants to eliminate him to prevent him from testifying against corruption in the police. In a shootout, Freddy manages to eliminate Ray.

An excellent little crime film, "Cop Land" is a surprising piece of quality film-making that still seems fresh today, acting almost as some sort of modern re-telling of "High Noon" thanks to a great cinematography, an intelligent screenplay, subtle directing and a fantastic mood that slowly "grows on you". The small details plastered throughout the film also give it that special spark, from the scene where Freddy unlocks a parking meter to get some change to play video games, through Ray sitting with his back towards a photo of an honest cop up to a neat "slice-of-life" scene where Freddy, holding a turtle toy in his hand, starts a conversation with investigator Moe on the street, but interrupts it for a second when he hears some kids fighting behind the corner, so he goes there to "bring some order". The biggest surprise, though, is Sylvester Stallone as the overweight and shy sheriff Freddy - it is one of the 2-3 best roles of his career, a brilliant example of playing against the type, yet for the most part it was completely ignored by the critics. It was really nice from all the strong, character actors like De Niro and Keitel to allow "mainstream action star" Stallone to take the leading role besides them, yet he managed it without a problem. This against the type casting is nearly as good as Carrey's in "The Truman Show" or Sellers' in "Being There". Janeane Garofalo's role as Freddy's deputy is sparse, but she is excellent in every scene she is in. The final showdown, with that mumbled sound, turned out almost surreal.


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