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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 Jerry Saravia
No Rating Supplied

Sylvester Stallone has not had a beguiling career since the heyday of "Rocky" nearly ten years ago. Since then he's tried and failed with comedy ("Oscar"), musicals ("Rhinestone"), and drama ("Rocky V"). Stallone is usually best in his action roles such as "Rambo" or "Cliffhanger," but his range as an actor is fairly limited. "Cop Land" is supposed to be Stallone's first very dramatic role but there's no energy and no enthusiasm, much like the movie itself.

Stallone plays Fred Heflin, a simple-minded, stolid sheriff of Garrison, a fictional New Jersey town. His chain of command in this town is nil, and he only has two other people in his staff. His basic duties are relegated to traffic duty. The New York cops who run this Jersey town are controlling everything but there's corruption boiling everywhere. Michael Rapaport plays a cop nicknamed Superboy who inadvertently kills two black teenagers during a car chase. The police want to cover it up, and Superboy supposedly commits suicide by jumping off a bridge. Fred is oblivious to these surroundings and decides to take no action against the corrupt cops because they put him where he is now. A colorful Internal Affairs officer (Robert De Niro) tries to get information from the unwilling Fred but fails. It turns out Fred is more interested in a cop's wife (Annabella Sciorra) but when people start getting knocked off, he decides he has to do what is morally correct. He gets some guidance from a former cop (Ray Liotta) who is also a cokehead.

"Cop Land" could have worked with some imaginative direction, a stronger plot and a better performance by the lead actor but it is no different from any TV movie on the same subject. There have been countless movies on police corruption - the best of these was the decadent "Bad Lieutenant" - and so there's nothing here we haven't seen before and better. For example, there's a gun planted at a crime scene; a typical Internal Affairs interrogation scene; badges flashed by several cops; nonessential bar fights; and a final, cliched shootout staged in slow-motion a'la Peckinpah. None of this is handled with any energy, flash, or vigor - it has a TV movie staleness that discomfits rather than enthralls.

Stallone is inarticulate as an actor and, although that might help the role, he sleepwalks through the film with no trace of humor or passion. Harvey Keitel is naturally more animated as an actor but his corrupt cop character is something he can play in his sleep. Ray Liotta is convincingly frantic as the druggy cop but his role is too similar to his Henry Hill character in "GoodFellas." Peter Berg, Frank Vincent, Michael Rapaport, Cathy Moriarty, Janeane Garofalo and Annabella Sciorra play trivial, forgettable roles with no inner life or central meaning to the story. A chance meeting between De Niro and Keitel is wonderful to behold but the scene is never followed up on. Ditto the Garofalo character, a new cop in Heflin's staff, who helps Heflin at the beginning but then decides to leave town. Why? Where's the transition?

"Cop Land" is directed by James Mangold who helmed the brilliant character study Heavy. This film, though, has the same snail pace and static energy, and it deadens rather than enliven the proceedings. Robert De Niro and Ray Liotta breathe life into the film whenever they appear on screen. Stallone and "Cop Land," however, are too ordinary and listless to keep anyone interested. Watch the invigorating TV show "NYPD Blue" instead.

Copyright 1997 Jerry Saravia

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