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A partially deaf New Jersery sheriff must investigate the NYPD officers he idolizes--potentially exposing the evil doings of some of New York's finest.
For more about Cop Land and the Cop Land Blu-ray release, see Cop Land Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on October 31, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo
Director: James Mangold
» See full cast & crew
Cop Land Blu-ray Review
Can you hear me now?
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, October 31, 2011
In the heyday of the Hollywood studio system, the biggest stars were frequently shoehorned into one typecast role after another, and they rarely if ever were expected to Act (with a capital A) in a showy, overtly demonstrative way. Sometime after the decline of the studio system, when stars were more responsible (in both good and bad ways) for their own careers, it became more of a rite of passage for big draws to de-glam themselves and go for that Academy Award with a performance that defied expectations and proved they were more than just pretty faces or hunks of beefcake. Marilyn Monroe, a star who kind of straddled the transition from the studio system to more personally run careers, did this quite convincingly in Bus Stop, a film which was greeted with a famous review stating, "Meet Miss Monroe: Actress" (a review I mentioned in my review of the Blu-ray release of The Lincoln Lawyer). Other stars in the sixties and beyond regularly played against type and eschewed Hollywood glamour (think of Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? for a good example), often raking in critical acclaim and, yes, that sought after Oscar in the process. One gets the impression that the 1997 film Cop Land might have been designed, at least in part, to do the same sort of job for Sylvester Stallone, here at least somewhat cast against type as a semi-deaf, overweight sheriff of a small New Jersey town across the river from New York City, a town where a bevy of actual New York City policeman have come to live and who have set up their own private "the law can't touch me" domain. Stallone is on record as stating the film did the exact opposite for his career, beginning an eight year or so journey through a wasteland where no one would hire him to portray him for his usual stock in trade action roles but who similarly wouldn't bring him on board to essay something more character driven. So much for the vagaries of show business. Looking back on it with 20/20 hindsight, while Cop Land is certainly a flawed film and one a bit too full of its top tier casting for its own good, Stallone actually comes out of the picture looking surprisingly good, with a nicely understated performance that proves that, yes, he can act. Meet Mr. Stallone: Actor.
Stallone portrays Freddy Heflin, a sweet natured if slightly screwed up middle aged man who has definitely seen better days. Freddy drinks too much, isn't above raiding a local parking meter for spare change to play his favorite pinball machines, and due to a long ago heroic rescue (something that plays out none too subtly as the film progresses), is deaf in one ear. Freddy spends most of his professional life chasing truants out of alleys or chasing after the occasional speeder who zooms through his (fictional) town of Garrison, New Jersey, supposedly on the other side of the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan. Cop Land introduces Freddy as well as a glut of other characters in a careening first few minutes which is arguably the film's strongest single sequence. In rapid succession we get shorthand character sketches of Freddy, as well as a handful of New York cops, many of whom have moved (more or less illegally since New York requires its police force to reside within the city limits) to Garrison to escape the madness of New York City. Among these are Lt. Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) and his nephew Murray "Superboy" Babitch (Michael Rapaport) who are among many attendees at a bachelor party. Babitch ditches the party early and starts on his way home when he's sideswiped by some crack smoking African American teens. At almost the same moment his front tire blows, and he mistakenly thinks he's being shot at. He returns fire, killing the two youths right there in the middle of the bridge. A coterie of cops and other emergency workers arrive, and Donlan and his cronies, including Officer Jack Rucker (Robert Patrick) and Detective Leo Crasky (John Spencer) quickly attempt to come up with a ruse to save "Superboy"'s reputation and career, first trying to plant a weapon on the dead kids, and then making it seem like "Superboy" has jumped off the bridge to his demise. That ruse sets up the central conflict of the film, as in reality "Superboy" is being secreted away to Garrison by Donlan and his buddies, and Internal Affairs investigator Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) is soon hot on their trail, trying to figure out not just what's going on vis a vis "Superboy," but also some other troubling aspects to the cops' lives in Garrison.
Writer-director James Mangold (Walk the Line, 3:10 to Yuma, Knight and Day) is on record (repeatedly) stating that he actually wanted to make a western (something he would do with Yuma in a few years), but didn't feel confident writing a period piece at that stage in his career, and so transferred many of the tropes of the western idiom to modern day New York and New Jersey. That's all fine and well, and indeed it's easy to see some of the parallels between the western genre and the slightly tweaked cop drama on display in this film, but it becomes at least slightly irrelevant for one overweening reason: this film is so packed with high voltage star power that it barely knows what to do with all of these characters. When you have a film with the likes of Keitel and De Niro, not to mention one stellar supporting actor after another (including everyone from Edie Falco to Annabella Sciorra to Cathy Moriarty to Janeane Garofalo, to just give you the distaff side of things), you'd better have a screenplay able to keep up with that level of star wattage. The simple fact is Cop Land is too stuffed with sidebars in order to give all of these magnificent actors their day underneath the klieg lights, and that bloated aspect tends to water down the main storyline, which really should be about Freddy's crisis of conscience as he decides how to handle a rapidly expanding scandal in his little neck of the woods. (It should be noted that there's a whole subplot involving a character played by Ray Liotta and an insurance scam he's trying to pull).
Still and all, this is a field day for most if not all of the actors. De Niro has to play things close to the vest here and so doesn't really get a chance to chew the scenery the way Keitel does, but the film has one solid moment after another for virtually all of these performers, and Stallone is really very good in a dilapidated role that would not seem on its surface to suit his particular talents very well. Mangold has since gone on to prove he is a very capable stager of action sequences, and he does some very good work in what was only his second film, and his first major feature. That opening freewheeling sequence which gets us up to speed with most of the film's major characters is brilliant, and the final twenty minutes or so of the film, despite its Sam Peckinpah-lite ambience, is intriguingly staged, especially from a sound design perspective. Cop Land is a film which never quite achieves the mythic heights to which it aspires, but which nonetheless has such intriguing elements that many viewers probably won't care that the parts are definitely greater than the whole.
Cop Land Blu-ray, Video Quality
Cop Land is presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This is a curiously schizoid transfer which looks fantastic some of the time, especially with regard to extreme close-ups in good to above average lighting conditions, but which then backtracks into muddiness, softness and overwhelming grain in other sequences. Some of this might be due to second unit work on location, as several sequences which were obviously done outside on location, as in the amusement park scene with the ferris wheel, are noticeably softer and more ragged looking than other sequences in the film. Colors are accurate and well saturated, though again the softer segments seem somewhat washed out. There's rather rampant edge enhancement on display throughout this transfer, and it should perhaps be noted that this particular artifact hardly ever bothers me, so the fact that it was so noticeable may up some more persnickety viewers' concerns. On the whole, though, this is certainly a well above average transfer, albeit one with intermittent problems that viewers need to keep in mind. I'd actually say that with the soft sequences taken out of consideration, this merits a solid 4 star rating, but with the less than stellar elements here I've erred on the cautious side with my ranking.
Cop Land Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Cop Land boasts a very effective lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that is notable for some very inventive sound design, especially with regard to the last twenty minutes or so of the film when (slight spoiler ahead) Freddy is almost entirely deafened by a purposeful gunshot blast to his one good ear. That final sequence plays out in a really effective muffled environment replete with the internal sound of Freddy's escalating heart rate as a number of violent episodes occur. Before that sequence, the film does a superb job in consistently maintaining an involving and immersive sonic experience, one which is full of boisterous LFE with some great action sequences involving gunfire or explosions, but which also presents dialogue moments very effectively. Surround channels very capably recreate the big city atmosphere of New York as well as the quieter climes of Garrison, New Jersey. Fidelity is excellent throughout this mix, with really great dynamic range and well prioritized dialogue, effects and score.
Cop Land Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Cop Land Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
As an actor's piece, Cop Land is aces, with full bodied work by a slew of fantastic performers. As a cohesive drama, the film is simply too stuffed with sidebars to ever develop real momentum and emotional impact with regard to Freddy's plight. Every time it seems as if Freddy is finally going to emerge front and center, yet another subplot intrudes and the film's energy is dissipated as a result of that tendency. If you can get past that element, though, Cop Land has a lot to recommend it. While there are some niggling issues with the image quality of this release, the sound is fabulous, and overall the film and Blu-ray come Recommended.
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Cop Land Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Cop Land: Collector's Series Blu-ray - August 15, 2011
Lionsgate Films has announced the high definition debut of Cop Land on a Collector's Series Blu-ray this November. Director James Mangold's thriller stars Sylvester Stallone (Rambo) as a small-town sheriff who unwittingly discovers a massive police conspiracy. ...
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