August 17, 1997 -- "Cop Land" is a movie that seems to have either too many subplots or not enough editing. It is either way too long or too short, depending on what it was meant to be in the first place.
It is hard to tell what the filmmakers were trying to do, but one thing's for sure: something went wrong somewhere. The story is promising. A sheriff of a small New Jersey town called Garrison inhabited mostly by New York City Cops spends his time playing pinball and looking the other way, ignoring the crooked cops on the take all around him.
The sheriff, Freddy Heflin (Sylvester Stallone) is awakened from his slumber one day by an New York police internal affairs detective named Mo Tilden (Robert De Niro) who asks Heflin's help in locating a heroic young cop (played by Michael Rapaport) who is thought to be dead, but is in hiding.
The young cop isn't dead, but will be soon if he isn't rescued from the clutches of a crooked cop, Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel). Donlan likes the kid, but figures he has to kill him because he knows too much. Donlan is in hiding because he mistakenly killed two men after he thought they shot at him.
When the young cop comes to Heflin's house seeking his help, Heflin decides he will have to act. There's a final gunfight with the bad guys. The acting talent is pretty high-powered with Keitel and De Niro, but De Niro has a surprisingly small part in this film. It makes me wonder if there was a lot of De Niro's stuff left on the cutting room floor.
There are some intriguing subplots, including one between Heflin and his old flame. Then there's the back story having to do with another crooked cop played by Ray Liotta ("Goodfellas") but those subplots seem to be dead ends. Perhaps they, too, were edited out. Then there is Janeane Garofalo ("The Truth About Cats and Dogs") who plays one of Heflin's deputies. It looks like something's happening with her, but she suddenly disappears from the film. There are dead ends everywhere.
I figure at least some of those subplots were filmed and got cut. Maybe others were real dead ends. Either way, the story ends up spinning its wheels a lot. What's left is about a half hour drama with about another hour of dead ends thrown in. It's a mess.
Keitel and Di Niro are always interesting to watch and Liotta does some good work in the film, too. The real surprise is Stallone. He does a pretty good job. It helps that his role doesn't call for much emotional range, because he only goes A to B. This film doesn't rate either an A or a B, despite all the talent. It's a waste of talent. It rates a C.
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