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movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Copland

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel
Director: James Mangold
Rated: R
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: August 1997
Genres: Crime, Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, Noah Emmerich

Review by Walter Frith
4 stars out of 4

Police corruption has been a powerful subject for examination and perhaps the most famous and well remembered story is 1973's 'Serpico' in which Al Pacino played the title character and the film was based on a true story involving a lone New York City police officer who blew the whistle on several of his peers and then was forced to leave his career behind.

'Copland' looks at the same subject of corrupt cops but puts a twist on an old story you wouldn't expect to see. It seems that for many years it was a rule set in motion by the governing body in New York City that officers who worked for the NYPD had to live in the city so their actions could be kept under observation by Internal Affairs (these are the people who police the police) but on a technicality many officers were later allowed to be declared eligible to live in surrounding areas such as New Jersey and Connecticut and it seems in this movie that across the Hudson River by way of the George Washington Bridge is a little town named Garrison, New Jersey (pop. 1280) in which a handful of cops have set up shop to perform many clandestine activities of a corrupt nature and the town's honest but rather timid sheriff (Sylvester Stallone) becomes embroiled in a conflict not usually seen in this small town where he boasts that they have (quote) "one of the lowest crime rates in Northern New Jersey" (unquote).

As the story picks up steam the corrupt cops in question (Harvey Keitel is their leader) fake the death of one of their own so he can't be prosecuted for a seemingly wrongful death of two motorists he had a run in with one night while driving home from a night of drinking and the story then focuses on an Internal Affairs agent (Robert De Niro) who begins investigating the situation and finds something not quite right. Because his jurisdiction ends at the George Washington Bridge he tries to convince Stallone that something has to be done by way of an investigation to resolve this unusual situation One of the crooked cops in question (Ray Liotta) has a redeemable side to his sinful persona and has some of the best work of his career in this movie.

The film's writer and director (James Mangold) has approached the subject matter in this movie with total credibility and has nailed down the attitudes and personalities of police officers (both corrupt and honest) in a very convincing fashion and while the film's climax is straight forward and contains little surprises it is still powerful and intelligent filmmaking done with characters both compelling and believable. No actor has a leading performance in this film and while each has a supporting role, Sylvester Stallone shines bright with some of his best work in more than a decade and proves he CAN act given the right set of circumstances and his portrayal of a small town sheriff dealing with big city corruption is one of the most sympathetic and interesting characters he's ever played. Stallone dumps the macho act entirely after gaining 40 pounds to play this role. In fact there are no slackers in this cast which also includes Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport and Annabella Sciorra

'Copland' is a smashing success so far as movie making is concerned and is one of the best films of 1997 and is certainly one of the most convincing police stories of all time.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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