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Cop Land Movie Review

freddy garrison stallone mangold

Sylvester Stallone gives the performance of his life in Cop Land, James Mangold's outstanding film noir about a rarefied community of policemen who take care of their own by any means necessary. The story opens with a high-speed police chase on the George Washington Bridge. Young cop Murray Babitch (Michael Rapaport) thinks he sees something in the car of two black kids out for a lark that night, but in his trigger-happy confusion, he's mistaken. His error in judgment sets the plot in motion and, like all great film noir, nothing is what it appears to be. Across the river from Manhattan is Garrison, New Jersey, a bedroom community for off-duty policemen and their families, population: 1,280. There is no crime in Garrison; Stallone as paunchy Sheriff Freddy Heflin spends his days as an all-purpose Mr. Fix It. When little boys fight, when next door neighbors are passive aggressive with each other, when a small child loses a stuffed toy, Freddy Heflin is on the job. Freddy wanted to be a real cop, but as a kid, he rescued a teenaged girl from drowning and lost his hearing in one ear. The girl grew up to be Liz Randone (Annabella Sciorra), unhappily married to Officer Joey Randone (Peter Berg). Freddy remains helpful to Liz, and she is kind to him, if more than a little resentful of the way life turned out for her. It is in Garrison that senior Officer Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) plans to solve the problem of his nephew Murray's error in judgment, and it is Ray's plan that unlayers the corrupt cesspool Garrison has become over the years. Internal Affairs investigator Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) tries to solicit Freddy's help to get to the bottom of the cesspool, but Freddy doesn't want to see, hear, or know about the extent of the corruption. Ray Liotta is electrifying as Gary Figgis, an unhappy, angry cop who needles Freddy about his doughnut consumption and urges him to Do Something. When Freddy finally moves into action, it is nearly too late and the consequences are devastating. I could not stop crying over the sheer brilliance of Stallone's less-is-more performance as Freddy and over Mangold's power as a writer/director in exquisite control of his material. The Blue-Ribbon ensemble cast, filled with acting gods all working for a fraction of their regular salaries in a character-driven indie, gives noir buffs and discriminating audiences the cinematic equivalent of nirvana. I was still crying a day later.

1997 (R) 105m/C Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, Annabella Sciorra, Harvey Keitel, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Michael Rapaport, Ray Liotta, Cathy Moriarty, Robert Patrick, Noah Emmerich, John Spencer, Malik Yoba, Frank Vincent, Arthur J. Nascarelli, Edie Falco, Deborah Harry; D: James Mangold; W: James Mangold; C: Eric Alan Edwards; M: Howard Shore. VHS, LV, Closed Caption

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