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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

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1.  Steve Rhodes review follows movie reviewmovie review
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5.  Jerry Saravia read the review ---

Review by Steve Rhodes
2 stars out of 4

"I look at this town, and I don't like what I see," remarks the sheriff of the backwater town of Garrison, New Jersey. Although his town nominally has a low crime rate, the reality is much grimmer. The city, a bedroom community of New York City cops, is a cesspool. The corrupt cops from across the river live in Garrison thanks to the payoffs from their mob connections.

Sylvester Stallone in a partially successful attempt to demonstrate his acting range plays Freddy Heflin, the town's good-old-boy sheriff. Much has been written about how the ever-buff Stallone bloated out in order to nab the part. Stallone creates a lethargic sheriff who sleepwalks through the first three quarters of the film. Although it can be argued that this shows his talents as a serious actor, any other actor giving such a remote performance would more likely have been criticized than praised. Nevertheless, the critics have heaped accolades on Stallone's work in COP LAND, since it shows he can do more than action flicks. Granted, but his range in COP LAND is even more limited than in his usual superhero roles.

Freddy is a sad guy with a hang-dog look who spends his time looking wistfully at The Big Apple where he wants to be a cop. Because as a teenager he saved his would-be sweetheart from drowning in her car, he lost his hearing in one ear and hence his chance of passing the NYPD entrance exam.

Why Stallone wants to wear New York City blues is never adequately explained. The confusing narrative rarely takes the time to delve into any motivation or character development, and it is easy to see why. The script by the director, James Mangold, has as many characters as a Balzac novel, so there is little time to devote to any of them, which is a shame since the story has promise. A sheriff who ignores all the major lawbreaking around him so he can concentrate on domestic disputes, kid's arguments, and improperly placed garbage could have become a compelling character study about a person with misplaced values. The movie needs a more tightly focused story that concentrates on just a few characters and gives them some meaningful dialog.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the making of this film is all of the wasted talent. Like a sports team owner awash in cash, producers Cary Woods, Cathy Konrad, and Ezra Swerdlow signed up so many excellent actors that even the most minor parts are filled with highly capable people. Besides Stallone, the cast includes, among others: Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, and Cathy Moriarty. The screenplay, however, gives the actors little to work with. All the characters suffer from being too one-dimensional. Still, with a cast this strong, the show does have its moments and could never be called a bad show even if the director's pacing is glacial.

With a more lively production, the holes in the story could have been ignored, but the cost of the director's slow gate is that the audience has more time to dwell on the film's improbabilities. Take just one. If you were on the lam from a bunch of killer cops, would you hide in the town where they lived or would you get out of there as fast as you could?

If you like to see homages to classic old films, then COP LAND will not disappoint. Stallone, taking on the Gary Cooper role from HIGH NOON, ends the show with a fast drawn gun and a hail of bullets. HIGH NOON, on the other hand, did not have the advantage of color or white carpet to accentuate the blood. It made up for these deficiencies by creating flesh-and-blood characters rather than unfilled-in sketches.

"How do you think this makes me look," complains Freddy to an NYPD cop flaunting his lawbreaking for the world to see. "Go home and don't think so much," admonishes the cop played by Harvey Keitel. The director seems to be saying that to the audience. You're to ignore the movie's flaws. Afterall, you've got a morosely serious Stallone surrounded by a galaxy of stars. What more could you want?

COP LAND runs 1:44. It is rated R for violence, profanity, and brief nudity and would be fine for most teenagers. I liked parts of the picture but not enough to recommend it. I give it **.

Copyright 1997 Steve Rhodes

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