Monday, June 03, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Cop Land (1997) ***

R, 104 min.
Director: James Mangold
Writer: James Mangold
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, Noah Emmerich, Cathy Moriarty, John Spencer, Frank Vincent, Malik Yoba, Arthur J. Nascarella

I originally saw “Cop Land” about six months before it was released in theaters. It was the only test screening I’ve ever been involved with. It might be a good example of how ineffective test screenings are. The version I saw at that screening was about ten minutes shorter than the theatrical release. It was tighter and faster paced, although this isn’t exactly a fast-paced subject matter. Better paced is probably a more accurate way to put it. This theatrical cut is good, but the earlier cut was great.

The role is a great one for Sylvester Stallone. His age was beginning to show, and a role in a more dramatic piece was a good career choice at a time when Hollywood didn’t believe in the aging action star. Interesting that it was Stallone who helped to end that notion about a decade later. Here he plays a quiet man, a sheriff of a town populated by cops. There’s corruption in the ranks, but the sheriff keeps his mouth shut. He’s long since given up on being anything significant. He was kept of the NYPD due to a heroic rescue he performed as a teenager that left him deaf in one ear. Now, his life is relegated to saving cats from trees and finding someone who is dumping their trash in with other people’s on pick up day. There’s just not that much crime in a town populated by policemen. Or rather, there’s not much crime that anything can be done about. If the cops are doing 70 in a 25 zone; well, they have a tough job, so they can slide.

The movie was James Mangold’s second feature after the well-received indie “Heavy”. He followed-up with the equally well-received “Girl, Interrupted”. Since, he has alternated between Hollywood mainstream projects, like “Kate and Leopold” and “Knight and Day”, and more passion driven films of a high caliber, such as “Walk the Line” and “3:10 to Yuma”.

“Cop Land” arrived with high expectations; not just because of Mangold’s promising first feature, but also because of the incredible cast of stars it boasted. Ray Liotta was still hot from “GoodFellas” several years earlier. Robert DeNiro and Harvey Keitel had long been considered masters of the crime genre. And, everyone anticipated Stallone’s first real serious role since the “Rocky” films. It underwhelmed, however, and perhaps suffered from too much anticipation. It’s a good movie. I just wish they’d left it alone from the cut I originally saw. Had they, I think it might’ve been considered one of the masterpieces of the ‘90s.

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