The Stallone Ranger
As always I will lay my cards on the table and say that I have always been a fan of Sylvester Stallone and whilst he has appeared in some turkeys is a much greater actor than many give him credit for. So "Cop Land" interested me because this was a movie which offered Stallone the opportunity to not only show that he is more than just an action hero but also put him alongside acting heavy weights such as Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta. Stallone accounts for himself well but is out shone but the other actors yet that is not the trouble with "Cop Land", nope "Cop Land" suffers from either being too ambitious but without the scenes to do it justice or a movie which has been killed on the cutting room floor.
The small town of Garrison, New Jersey is watched over by Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone - Daylight), an over weight cop who's had sum bum deals which quashed his ambitions of being a New York cop like most of the residents of Garrison. One of those people is Uncle Ray (Harvey Keitel - Rising Sun), a dirty cop with mob connections and who Internal Affairs officer Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro - Marvin's Room) would love to bring down but can't with out any solid evidence. When rookie cop Murray Babitch (Michael Rapaport) shoots two coloured men when he mistakes them point a wheel lock at them for a gun it is Uncle Ray and his cronies who come to his aid making it appear that he jumped off a bridge when in truth they have smuggled him back to Garrison. When Freddy spots Murray in Ray's car after seeing the news report of his death he finds himself drawn into the case and Tilden's attempts to bring down the dirty cop.
Now from a storyline point of view "Cop Land" explores familiar territory with not only a storyline which feels like an update on an old western theme but one which deals with dirty cops. It means that whilst we are served up an elaborate storyline surrounding a dirty cop as well as a variety of character building sub plots it is pretty clear that eventually Sheriff Heflin is going to end up making a stand against those he has turned a blind eye to for a long time. The trouble is that whilst we have story elements such as Freddy's fondness for Liz who he rescued when he was a teenager there is not enough of it too really connect in with the main story. It ends up giving "Cop Land" an almost disjointed feeling and I wonder whether writer and director James Mangold was forced to cut out elements in order to keep it down to a reasonable length or within budget.
There are many more elements such as former cop Gary Figgis's connection with Uncle Ray and his resentment towards him which whilst adding an interesting aspect to the movie is not done full justice to as it is not given enough time to grow. But what it does mean is that the impressive cast which fills "Cop Land" get a chance to show their skills for playing characters. From Robert De Niro and Harvey Keitel through to the likes of Michael Rapaport, Janeane Garofalo and Ray Liotta they all deliver some excellent performances even when their characters end up under serviced by scenes being cut short. But the knock on effect of this is that on one hand we have Sylvester Stallone delivering probably his best performance since the original "Rocky" movie yet ironically is out shone by the sheer acting talent alongside him.
What this all boils down to is that "Cop Land" only has one problem and I will call that too much ambition. Beyond the storyline which feels like it needed more time and scenes to do it justice everything else about "Cop Land" is good especially Sylvester Stallone who whilst out shone by some heavy weight actors reminds us what a talented actor he is.