The 20th anniversary to Cop Land is around the corner. August 15th to be exact. Now a lot of you may not remember this movie so well because it wasn’t a huge hit at all, if anything it sorta came and went to the public eye. This is the movie where after more than twenty years of action films Sylvester Stallone decided to retire from the action genre and try his hand at drama. He even gained 40 pounds to portray Sheriff Freddy Heflin surrounded himself with classic actors to help out. That may have been his only mistake with this one. Acting alongside Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta and even the surprisingly good Robert Patrick (who up until that point was really only known for playing the T-1000 in T2) is a really tough task to handle.
Synopsis: The sheriff of a suburban New Jersey community populated by New York City police officers slowly discovers the town is a front for mob connections and corruption.
The story starts off with Superboy Babitch (Michael Rapaport) shooting a couple of black dudes after they pull a steering wheel lock on him which he mistakes for a gun. Of course, they get shot and killed and Superboy is in some hot water. Babitch fakes his own suicide and hides out with the help of his uncle, a cop played by Harvey Keitel. From there on you start to see all the corrupt cop shit that comes with this kind of movie: uncovering mob ties and people looking the other way when planting guns on people – that sort of thing.
The main thing that sets the movie apart from the rest is the performance by Stallone, playing Freddy Helfin. Usually Stallone would be the guy that would come in and kick these bad cops’ asses. He ain’t Marion Cobretti in this one, kids. He gets treated like he’s the town simpleton and never taken seriously. At one point DeNiro’s character, Internal Affairs cop Moe Tilden, even calls him a “deaf fuck” (Heflin is deaf in one ear) when Heflin is trying to help out with his investigation. It is kinda hard to see Heflin take the abuse from these assholes, but Stallone plays it so well. Sporting a bandage over his nose and even looking down when people shout at him, Stallone really swung for the fences in this one by playing it subtle. It’s a quiet performance and a really good one.
Listening to Springsteen is a nice touch too.
Now the other MVP in this movie has got to be Ray Liotta, a dirty cop whose conscience keeps nagging at him and the only real friend to Heflin. By the end of the movie when the shit is going down, Ray’s character has to make the decision of leaving town for a better life or go back and help Freddy. He’ll also more-than-likely face the music on all this corrupt shit Freddy is going to uncover. His moment to shine really pays off in this one and Liotta should’ve been noticed for this movie as much as he was given praise for Goodfellas. The guy just has that look of whether or not he’s going to hug you or tell you to go fuck yourself in a way you’ve never been told to go fuck yourself before.
The ending definitely has that High Noon feel to it, with Heflin going against every one of the cops that are doing the bad shit in his town. One of the cool things about this is how director James Mangold (Logan) stages the climax more like a Western, but without giving Stallone the hero shots that he normally gets in his action movies. This actually feels like a real person coming after the bad guys; kudos to Stallone for trying that out and not letting his ego get in the way.
The movie definitely feels like it was either released 10 years too late or 10 years too early. Like the perfect movie Out for Justice with Steven Seagal (check it out now), had it been released in 2007 or had it been released when Goodfellas came out and set in Boston with Ben Affleck acting and Scorsese directing, the movie would’ve been named an instant classic.
Sylvester Stallone isn’t very known for his dramatic work besides his Rocky movies and Creed, but in this one he does put his all into it without overdoing it. So if you haven’t seen this little gem, give it a look.