Film Scouts Reviews

"Cop Land"

by Karen Jaehne

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Sylvester Stallone is the pokey, pitiful sheriff of Garrison, a suburb on the other side of the bridge between NYC and New Jersey, where a gang of bad cops have holed up to protect themselves ostensibly from the grit and crime of the city but, in fact, from folks like Robert De Niro of Internal Affairs - the cops who catch the cops.

Sly and De Niro have never worked together before, and they give us the movie's best moments. De Niro goes all the way to Jersey to explain to the slow-thinking Sheriff that they've got the same problem: policing all these slobs in uniform with quick tempers and packing weapons. It's not a job for just anybody....are we special, or what?

De Niro laces this scene with the amused intimacy he so casually lets slide over the top of the mole on his right cheek. We've seen it before, and we watch to see how Stallone will take it. Staunchly in character, he doesn't seem to catch on. Of course, the Sheriff's got a hearing problem. And he's under the thumb of Harvey Keitel, who plays the insolent, corrupt cop like "Hey, I'm the only guy out here acting!" He's wrong of course, because De Niro is just a very generous actor. And we're here to watch the acting.

The story? There's more plot in an episode of NYPD Blue.

Stallone rolls through this like a car with a flat tire until he finally gets a gun. Then thwacko! The ending takes off - the Sheriff marches up the street to hunt down the bad guys, said bad guys get shot, blood spurts, and we got ourselves a Sly movie!

It's a disappointment, because this was supposed to be Stallone's move into quiche-eating. But he is clearly so good at what he always does that it's a relief to find out he's about to make Rocky XVII. (Just kidding.)

Equally gratifying is to see that newcomer James Mangold can parlay a tiny movie like the gentle "Heavy" into industry jobs for box-office enormities in what is really an old-fashioned studio picture. Good for him, but why not scale the story up, instead of scaling the actors down? They spend decades refining their signature gestures to become mammoth, and that's what folks want - especially from Stallone. He can dumb-down, but he can't get down.

Still, Cop Land is like a fatcat's 1959 Cadillac Seville - built for comfort, not for speed, cruising on superstar horsepower.

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