Saturday, May 18, 2013

Day One Hundred and Thirty-eight - Cop Land, "How crime noir should be, for the most part."

When you think police drama, just off the top of your head... would you ever consider Sylvester Stallone could make it as a vulnerable, kowtowed sheriff to a bridge and tunnel police community in Jersey?

I mean, really? Stallone?

But, when you watch him do it... it's really not so bad. Especially when you consider he doesn't really have to act all that much. His lines are few and far between and, basically, all that's required of him is to look a bit sad and mopey, even when he's smiling... because, for the majority of the film, he's a broken down lapdog to the real movers and shakers of Garrison, NJ, the mobbed up corrupt cops who live there.

That's where most of the acting talent in this film lies: Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, and Peter Berg are NYPD... but dirty, so very dirty, and the majority of the film revolves around Rapaport's faked suicide and the fallout it brings down on the members of the 37th precinct.

Nominally, Stallone is the lead as Cop Land's resident Sheriff Freddy, but I find myself feeling that it's more about the ensemble. Whether it's Keitel's Ray or Liotta's Figgsy, the drama that plays out for the folks in the know of Garrison is compelling, even if the writing is weak.

I think my favorite scenes revolved around Robert De Niro's internal affairs investigator who first appeals to Freddy's sense of justice and duty but then refuses to help when Ray has the mayor shut down the investigation. This, of course, forces Freddy to take matters into his own hands, leading to the eventual climax.

A few things do bother me about the film.

For one thing, there are some weird as heck casting choices. While Stallone as the stoic lead was jarring at first, I kind of grew into it, but Janeane Garofalo as a deputy? And Annabella Sciorra doesn't exactly have much in the way of screen time, which is disappointing since she's supposed to be a key motivator for Freddy's life.

Then there's the kidnapping of Rapaport's "Superboy" Babitch by Ray's inner circle during the climax. There's no nod as to how they knew that Sheriff Freddy had found him and was ready to bring him to One Police Plaza and tear everything down. I didn't need much, just something, you know?

Still, that very same climax has one of the best sequences in police drama history where Freddy is almost completely deafened by a gunshot and is forced to confront the inner circle at Ray's only hearing the bullets flying. It's great cinema and very effective use of sound direction as the audience only hears what Freddy does... the ringing of tinnitus and the occasional pistol report.

As much as I love the climax, though, I just couldn't help but laugh at John Spencer's death scene with it's obvious boxy squibs and his ham-fisted gunplay.

It's not a perfect movie, but it's actually pretty darn interesting and worth the watch. It's definitely not The Departed, but it works.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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