How sly of Sly to catch the eye and keep his place as time goes by. Stallone
has achieved transition and begun the second stage of his career with this
exciting and striking film. With a group of super-talents alongside him, his
new appearance, although a bit slouched, stands out and gives him his finest
hour since Rocky (the first one, of course). All I can say is thank heavens
somebody beat the Daylight out of him. We were all worried about what that
last vehicle portended.
© RCV Film Distribution
Copland is the nickname given to Garrison, New Jersey across the George
Washington Bridge from New York where lots and lots and lots of cops live.
Nobody would dare step out of line in that neighborhood, a stone's throw
away from the crime filled streets of the big metropolis. NYPD officer Murray
Babitch (Michael Rapaport) is sideswiped one night on his way home by two
joyriders and, in a rage, winds up shooting at them and watching their car
crash. They're both dead and Babitch's problems are only beginning. The
imminent danger is that Babitch, recently labeled as a hero, could become
slapped with claims of police brutality for this situation. His brothers in arms
get to the location quicker than you can say "bent" and plant a gun in the
wreckage as well as setting up their fellow-cop's "escape" from the scene.
Now the newspapers will tend to concern themselves with the fact that the
hero cop is missing, assumed dead rather than any suspicious
The big, blue boys from the city may be swarming on the bridge, but back in
Garrison sloppy, clumsy, partially-deaf local sheriff Freddy Heflin (Sylvester
Stallone) is busy trying to maintain law, order and peace; all this without
stepping out of line or having any run-ins with his "associates" in blue.
Freddy's a good guy who lost the hearing in one ear and his chances to join
the NYPD force when he rescued a girl named Liz (Annabella Sciorra) from
drowning, then was unlucky enough to lose her to another cop (Peter Berg).
Now he's in charge of a lawless town, filled with bad cops and an
overabundance of weapons, where he's only allowed to direct traffic and
whatever else he can to look after the citizens. If the truth be known, the only
real buddy he's got in NJ from among the New York boys is Gary Figgis (Ray
Liotta), whose ex-partner got killed while doing time in jail. Nevertheless,
Freddy still idolizes the boys in blue (they can almost do no wrong in his
book) and still sort of wishes he was one of them. But, despite his great
admiration, he keeps both eyes open and notices the missing Babitch hidden
away in the back of the car belonging to officer Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel).
The media goes immediately into "feeding frenzy state" about the fate of
Babitch and IA investigator Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) is called in to head
a task force. Suspecting a cover up, Moe tries to get Freddy on his side.
Donlan was Tilden's partner once upon a time, but no love has been lost
between the two since Moe "defected" to Internal Affairs.
It's a film with more "bad cop, bad cop" than "good cop, bad cop". What
goes on in this film is frightening because it is so believable. Frank Serpico
himself, commenting on the film, said that the events portrayed are easily
Writer/director James Mangold, commenting on the milieu of change in the
70's among the police community, says that people depended on them, but
no longer revered them. "Crime felt out of control. And cops became this
barrier between the community and chaos. Thanks to the legal system, cops
started to feel really useless, like they could be arresting someone one day
and putting them back on the street the next - garbage men. I noticed that
all of these factors created a real sense of anger, because cops felt like they
were risking their lives every day for no reason. They weren't heroes to
anyone - not to the public, not to the city, and certainly not to the people they
arrested. It was like a municipal Vietnam. cops came home every day
asking, "what did I do? why is this happening? I don't understand."
The talents of DeNiro, Keitel, Stallone, Liotta, and Sciorra together on the
screen brink upon ensemble acting, with strikingly brilliant, yet subtle
performances. But the star billing should really go to writer/director Mangold
and producer Cary Woods, two names with considerable credits behind them
who are bursting onto new horizons (big time). Mangold debuted as
writer/director in 1996 with "Heavy," winning the Grand Jury Prize for Best
Direction at the Sundance Festival and Woods has recently created the
production company Independent Pictures whose first release was "Kids".
(Woods also produced the thriller "Things to Do in Denver When You're
Dead." Can ya' hear me, Ed & Ted?) Not a bad combination when you're
thinking about making a film. And, as could have been expected by anyone
with foresight, they've come up with the goods.
In the film, however, it's all up to little Freddy. Is he up to saving the day?
After all, it's not who you are, but what you are. Or should that be the other
way around? Crazy days. I wonder if Giulianni attended the New York
premiere, or if he displayed zero tolerance at the thought of it.
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett