Plain, Simple Tom reviews . . . “Cop Land” (1997)

Writer/Director James Mangold, of the 3: 10 to Yuma remake and The Wolverine fame, gives us this great crime drama film. In a town primarily inhabited by cops, local sheriff Freddie (Sylvester Stallone) discovers a cover-up concerning the apparent suicide of a young officer as well as dirty dealings with the mob. While initially reluctant, he eventually decides to make a change for the better and to bring the guilty to justice.

What immediately struck me about this film was the impressive cast list; it’s definitely a film that you watch and constantly ask “Wait, isn’t that . . .?” The vast majority of actors seem to be Scorcese/Goodfellas/Sopranos alumni with the likes of Ray Liotta, Harvey Keitel, Robert DeNiro, Frank Vincent, Cathy Moriarty, Edie Falco, Robert Patrick, Tony Sirico, John Ventimiglia and Annabella Sciorra; they even get Gotham‘s John Doman in there! Alongside so many other famous faces (I could keep rambling about pretty much everyone who’s in this!), Cop Land is certainly an impressive ensemble piece with all of the actors making a significant impact and playing their respective roles perfectly.

And then there’s Sly himself. Gaining 40 pounds for the role, thanks to a healthy diet of giant pancakes, he is the heart of this film, playing the role of the honest, decent everyman with integrity, determination and a loveable charm. His is a very fleshed out character; we come to realise his aspirations for something bigger than the small town that he’s in, hampered by his partial deafness, and throughout the story, we see his inner conflict of wanting to do the right thing but at the same time, not to get in over his head.

When he finally decides to “take the plunge” and take action, when everyone around him is completely apathetic and dismissive, his determination and resolve is very admirable and we completely support him in the finale. The character definitely develops well, gradually opening his eyes and taking action against the troubling odds.

The final act is very reminiscent of High Noon; the central character enters into a dangerous situation but (most) everyone around him abandons him, completely apathetic to the engulfing corruption and this certainly adds interest to the film and ensures that we completely support our brave protagonist. Looking back, there is a certain Western vibe surrounding the film.

The story of Cop Land is solid and interesting; alongside the main focus of corruption and dangerous mob dealings, there’s also a fascinating theme of the blurred lines between good/bad, right/wrong and moral quandaries and grey areas. Many characters who we assume to be “good” end up dismissing what is happening around them and we realise that far from being heroes and villains, these characters are simply human, fallible and vulnerable. In addition, there is also an element of “David and Goliath”, with the everyman taking on a force much greater than himself.

Also the film is visually appealing, with that nostalgic 90s charm!

With an impressive ensemble cast and a solid, interesting story, Cop Land is a very engaging, thrilling drama. Stallone is excellent.

★ ★ ★ ★

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