Director: James Mangold
Cast: Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Robert De Niro
Watch Cop Land online in the UK: iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent)
If The Expendables 3 has the greatest action cast of all time, Cop Land has the greatest police drama cast. Alongside do-gooders Stallone, Keitel, De Niro and Liotta are actors who also spend most of their on-screen careers with a badge: Michael Rapaport, Robert Patrick and Peter Berg. Our boys in blue reside in the same small district of New Jersey and all seems well and good. That is, until a shooting-gone-wrong attracts attention from Internal Affairs’ Moe Tilden (De Niro) and the local Sheriff Freddy Heflin (Stallone).
Presiding over the town of outlaw pigs, Stallone does well as Heflin. Avoiding his usual attraction to over-the-top explosions, he posts a decent performance as a conflicted good guy. He displays a knowing balance between right and wrong – sometimes forced a little too much in the writing – but manages to keep his Rambo instincts to a minimum. While Sly manages the part, though, he naturally appears under-par opposite corruption-overlord Lt. Ray Donlon (Keitel) and Tilden. It’s no failure for the action hero, but he is a little blank, a little safe and a little too simple.
Elsewhere in the troubled town, the dirty blues cruise around town, untouchable and a joy to behold. Patrick provides the sneering muscle to Liotta’s logical greed, while Keitel presides over the lot with Wolf-like precision and sociopathic necessity. Sharply written and cunningly portrayed, Donlon has an air of gravitational fear that follows him into every scene. His cohorts, his political contacts and his enemies all fear the crooked Lieutenant equally – it shows and it’s powerful.
Existing in a dark, gritty town (Garrisson, New Jersey), through which a legal loophole allows the band of warped lawmen to live outside the rules they uphold, Cop Land delivers a note-perfect late 90s cop movie. It’s alcohol-fuelled, it’s constantly smoking, it’s foul-mouthed and it’s tough. Cop Land is only James Mangold’s second film, but his writing does a good job overall. When delivered by some of the most recognisable voices in Hollywood, it really does throw down a gauntlet.
Shot well and always armed, if you’re looking for a tough crime drama with moral troubles, action and dialogue you can bask in – but can’t find your copy of Heat – Cop Land is exactly what you need.