Cop Land

1997, Movie, R, 105 mins


Casting Sylvester Stallone as Freddy, the schlumpfy, half deaf sheriff of a New Jersey bedroom community populated by the predatory New York City cops he idolizes is... actually not as bad an idea as it sounds. Fortunately writer-director James Mangold has surrounded Stallone with an exceptional ensemble cast, and Sly is smart enough to let the actors do the acting. Murray "Superboy" Babitch (Michael Rapaport) kills two black kids out for a joyride after they threaten him with what he mistakenly thinks is a gun. Luckily for Superboy, his uncle happens to be the powerful and corrupt NYPD officer Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel), who enlists his cronies -- including the particularly despicable blackguard Rucker (Robert Patrick) -- in a half-baked scheme to get his nephew off the hook. Freddy is caught in the middle when NYPD Internal Affairs investigator Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) tries to enlist him to catch the rotten cops. As a writer, Mangold has plotted the film so densely that each scene counts, with a multitude of little back stories that the cast makes snap, crackle and pop. But his understated dialogue often drains the drama out of the scene, leaving it up to the actors' own resourcefulness to pump it back in. There's an amusing nonverbal scene during Superboy's fake funeral, for example, when Joey Randone (Peter Berg) looks at Donlan's wife Rose (Cathy Moriarty) with whom he is having an affair -- and his own wife Liz (Annabella Sciorra) catches him, as does Donlan. Such scenes give the film the pacing of a slow-burning fuse; it sizzles toward an explosive and satisfying climax in which everything -- Stallone included -- fully bursts into life. leave a comment --Sandra Contreras

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