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Cop Land (1997)

Let me start by stating I’m a big fan of this James Mangold crime drama. I’m a firm believer that it’s arguably the best work ever caught on film from Sylvester Stallone. Think about it, let’s take away Rambo and Rocky for a minute and pretend they never existed. What’s left? A large body of work that some might argue contains more than one misstep but not here. I mean if it wasn’t for the fact that the credits clearly state this is a James Mangold film, you might get away with tricking a newbie into believing it’s a Martin Scorsese film.

Scorsese? Most assuredly.

Along with a crime drama background here are the reasons why….

Harvey Keitel. “I always liked you, Murray. You just sweat too much!”

Ray Liotta. “In for a penny, in for a pound. Don’t shut me out, Ray.”

Robert De Niro.“Listen, you deaf fuck. I offered you a chance when we could have done something, I offered you a chance to be a cop, and you blew it! You blew it.”

Raging Bull’s Cathy Moriarty.

Heck, it’s even got Billy Bats himself, Frank Vincent.

Now, where the hell is Joe Pesci???

For those who haven’t seen the film, Stallone is a low key Sheriff in name only paid for by Harvey Keitel in what’s known as Cop Land. A small town outside of Jersey where a good majority of the residents are cops. Many of them crooked under Keitel’s watch. Keitel is a veteran on the force who has a tight circle of corrupt officials on the take. When his nephew on the force known as Super Boy, Michael Rapaport, kills two black men in a drunken haze, Keitel’s criminal organization is in jeopardy.

Enter Robert De Niro as an Internal Affairs officer looking to take Keitel and his organization down. To do it he’s going to need Stallone’s help and maybe an assist from Ray Liotta whose own relationship with Keitel is beginning to crumble. Don’t expect a Cobra style shootout or Cliffhanger heroics. No this is a slow burn Alan Ladd as Shane or Gary Cooper as Will Kane styled build up and again, I’ve always loved this one from the first time I saw it to the most recent. Truth is I saw this on opening night, August 15th, 1997 at the local theater here in my hometown.

If you haven’t seen it I can only say it comes with my highest recommendation.

Others in the cast include ….

Robert Patrick.

Janeane Garofalo.

Peter Berg.

Annabella Sciorra.

John Spencer.

Michael Rapaport. 

And one more time, Sylvester Stallone, in one of his finest roles. 

“I look at this town, and I don’t like what I see.”

9 Comments »

  1. I have to admit, when I first saw this film back in ’97 I thought it was very quite dour and slow-paced. Looking back, I don’t think I had the full maturity to appreciate the ‘slow burn’, as you rightly describe it. I reckon I’ll have to go the re-watch with this one, especially considering I’m a big fan of Ray Liotta (loved him in another cop movie UNLAWFUL ENTRY (1992).

    This scene features the ‘You blew it line” from DeNiro.

    • Great scene. Gotta love how De Niro goes on eating that burger and looks so disinterested. Truly though, you put the Scorsese name on the credits and this one has far greater stature of which I believe it deserves. I too like Liotta’s work but have been kind of sad to see him drift into so many straight to video stuff, much of it not worth my time. Was nice to see him back in action for a while on that J-Lo series of which I caught a few episodes just to see him in action.

  2. I remember Cop Land as a lovely under-rated gem. I watched it in the theatre when it was released. It’s definitely one of Stallone’s better performances, but I remember everyone in the cast being amazing. Ray Liotta turning up at the end of this outta nowhere, waving a gun with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth is one of my favourite moments ever!
    I need to re-watch it again soon…

    • I love to revisit this one every few years since it’s release. I’m a fan of Liotta’s as well and like his character here who just isn’t sure which horse to bet on till the chips are down. Should he cut and run or stick around for Sly.

  3. Wow I had completely forgot the star cast on show! It’s a crazy collection of superb stars.
    I too saw this back in 97 and loved it so much. Sly is just pitch perfect in the role. So good in fact it’s probably why I can’t recall that many of the cast. I’ve always wanted to revisit it. You’ve sparked my interest big time to see it again.

  4. Yep, I saw this way back when as well, but don’t remember much about it…what I DO remember is the story of how this little film suddenly started attracting big-name stars to it. And I just checked IMDb…Deborah Harry as a bartender? I don’t remember that at all!

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