Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Film Review: Cop Land (1997)

Cop Land (Review)
United States/1997
Format Viewed For Review: Netflix
Netflix Streaming: Yes
Amazon Prime: No

"...a tense, exciting, and gritty experience."

The small town of Garrison, New Jersey, located across the Hudson River, is home to a number of NYPD officers. All is well until the local sheriff, Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone), begins to witness the corruption...

Cop Land primarily follows Sheriff Freddy Heflin and the corrupt NYPD officers living in Garrison. Freddy is a soft-spoken, aspiring NYPD officer who never accomplished his dreams due to being partially deaf. When NYPD officer Murray "Superboy" Babitch (Michael Rapaport) kills two black teens, Lt. Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel), a Garrison resident, smuggles Babitch out of town and fakes his suicide. Eventually, Freddy catches a whiff of the corruption. Freddy soon finds himself entrenched in the corruption when Internal Affairs investigator Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) further enlightens him. Freddy finds himself in a conundrum — face Ray and the corrupt officers he once admired in a violent clash or look away and play along with the corruption. Cop Land leads to a satisfying climax and ending.

Cop Land is a great film. In a sense, it reminded me of the masterful film, Serpico. Like Serpico, Cop Land feels like a gangster film about, well, cops. The way these corrupt cops interact and maneuver is reminiscent of classic gangster movies. It was also interesting to ingest its timeless themes — I mean, just by looking out my window or at the news and I can see it's still relevant. There's also plenty of tension and suspense, and even a bit of action. It's a film that always stays on its feet and keeps moving. I wish there was a little more focus on Freddy's character, though. There's an entire romance subplot that feel rather useless and unfulfilling. Other than that, I don't have many complaints.

Sylvester Stallone delivers a different performance, at least for Stallone — and it's a welcomed change of pace. Stallone does well as the soft-spoken Freddy. Of course, Stallone is outshined by his formidable supporting cast. Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, and Robert De Niro deliver splendid performances. A finely-acted film, indeed. The film looks and sounds great. I especially enjoyed the soundtrack. Writer and director James Mangold, who has directed favorites like Identity and The Wolverine, crafts a great crime film. There are a few holes in the characters, but the narrative is strong and the direction is great.

Overall, Cop Land is a great film. I was thoroughly entertained and engaged from beginning to end. There are a few minor issues here and there, but it's otherwise a tense, exciting, and gritty experience. I was actually surprised to how the themes passed the test of time — I swear, one of the headlines in this film is straight from our time. I strongly recommend it. If you want something a little more fleshed out with similar themes, check out Serpico.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, some partial nudity.

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