Monday, July 31, 2006

Me Mini Movie Reviews: Cop Land

Well, the other night I watched Cop Land. The movie stars on overweight Sylvester Stallone, along with other acting stalwarts Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel, and Ray Liotta, in what the director called an ‘urban western.’ A fitting description, and an excellent movie all around. Anyone who says Stallone can’t act, should watch this (and Get Carter, a personal fave of mine of Stallone’s movies). He’s capable of more than the typical action hero he’s been typecast as.

The movie centers around a fictional “Cop Land,” a rather peaceful town populated mostly of police officers and their families. The cops police the big city of New York across the river, but live in relatively crime free peace away from it. Stallone plays the Sheriff of this town. He’s overweight, a little slow on the uptake, and generally spends most of his time wishing he was one of the ‘real cops.’ He can never be though, because when he was younger, he jumped into the river to save a drowning girl and suffered hearing damage to one of his ears. Because of that, he can never pass the tests to become NYPD blue. So, the other big shots of the town basically gave him the Sheriff job as a consolation prize. What’s worse is, he knows it. He’s got a shit job doing not a whole lot and spending his life wishing it was different. Not only that, he has to watch the girl he saved and fell in love with married to another cop and living in the same town. Here’s a character that’s basically just killing time until something happens to force him to take a stand.

One night, a cop is involved in a suspicious shooting of two youths on the New York Bridge. Then he apparently jumps to his death to the river below. This sets off a chain of events leading to corruption, cover-ups, and power struggles as the town of cops closes ranks to protect what they’ve built. More than one will have to choose sides, and Stallone’s Sheriff winds up in the middle of it and being forced to make a difficult choice.

All the actors give fantastic performances, as most of the characters aren’t really black or white in what they’re doing (though some clearly are), but more shades of gray. Stallone gives the best performance, and it was really intriguing for me to see a character in a movie that’s half deaf and has to live with it. He doesn’t read lips or do sign language; he just can’t always hear what’s going on. There are some neat audio tricks done to give the viewer the sense of what its like to be in his shoes. When the alarm clock goes off and he’s sleeping on his good ear, you only hear a faint ringing noise before it comes on full as he rolls over. In the final shootout sequence, the audio is tweaked again to give the viewer the feeling of being in the Sheriff’s shoes and not being able to hear. The odd tone of bagpipes is used as an effective duplication of the buzzing tonal distortion he’s hearing. Then there’s the great line of dialogue where he puts on an old record of Springsteen and the girl he’s with tells him that he could get that on CD now in stereo sound. He looks at her and says sadly “It wouldn’t matter much to me” as he only hears in mono anyway. It’s a well played character aspect that isn’t ignored and becomes an integral part of the movie.

Overall, it’s a good story well told and well acted. You’re not exactly sure as you watch it who’s going to come out of it alive and what choices some of the characters will make. It even throws in a twist or two you may or may not see coming (depending how movie cynical you are). I watched the director’s cut DVD, so that’s what I’d recommend as well.

Verdict: Highly recommended.

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