James Mangold has written and directed a good but complicated movie that requires too little time from each of his very good actors, and a great deal of effort from his audience.

COPLAND

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


In "Cop Land," James Mangold has written and directed a good but complicated movie that requires too little time from each of his very good actors, and a great deal of effort from his audience. Tracking the subplots is demanding work that eases only when we realize Sylvester Stallone is the connecting thread we must follow if we are to keep up. But let's not get ahead of the story.

In corrupt collusion with the Mob, N.Y.P.D. officer Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) has created a bedroom commuter town for his cops just across the George Washington Bridge in Garrison, New Jersey. The rotten patriarch and his guys hang out at the Four Aces Bar, where they are trying to figure out how to contain a transgression by one of their own, Murray Babitch (Michael Rapaport), who panicked during a chase on the bridge that ended in a shooting.

The town, basically a private precinct for the Mob, is overseen with dutiful detachment by Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone), a decent, slightly slow-witted guy who, in a long-ago heroic rescue, lost his hearing and his dream of being a New York City cop. Freddy watches over the errant population of Garrison while dealing with the incidentals of life in a town that doesn't count. All the while, he gazes longingly at Manhattan from the shadow of the GWB.

If the cops of Garrison are crooked, they are also hard to follow. Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro), an internal affairs investigator from New York, is as confused as the audience in trying to penetrate the corruption. Ray Liotta is especially good as Figgis, a potential leak in the dam. Janeane Garofalo, Annabella Sciorra, and Cathy Moriarty, good as they are, have little to work with in a movie packed with so many characters.

As Freddy, Sylvester Stallone is shooting for a new image, and he gets it. As an outsider privy only to the external workings of the cops who inhabit his town, he shuffles through the days with sadness and regret dripping from his eyes. For the most part, especially in a scene with Annabella Sciorra, he conveys the resignation and despair of a man without hope. He knows, and so do we, that he would have been one of the good cops.

And yet, the Stallone action-toy image is so strong it clings to him like a sweat-soaked T-shirt. When he fills out a form, our heads fill with a little word balloon, "Gee, Rambo can write." We expect the curled lip to snarl, the sleeping giant to explode. When finally he acts from conscience, not rage, we are almost relieved to learn that the big guy can take a couple of bullets and still stride, bleeding and reluctant, across the river that has divided his life from his dreams. This is an actor who needs action the way the rest of us need air.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 493
Studio : Miramax
Rating : R
Running Time: 1h45m


Copyright (c) Illusion

Return to Ellis Home Page