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Featured Blu-ray Review: Cop Land

November 11th, 2011

Cop Land - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon

Sylvester Stallone was one of the biggest action stars in the 1980s with two major franchises: Rocky and Rambo. However, by the late 1990s, his box office numbers were way down. His reputation for making quality films had also taken a beating. Granted, he made more than a few stinkers in the 1980s, but many saw Cop Land as a sign that he could make high quality films like Rocky or First Blood and this might revitalize his career. That didn't happen. In fact, he didn't star in a good movie till Rocky Balboa. Was his attempt at dramatic acting a bust? Or was there something else going on?

The Movie

The film begins with a voiceover saying New York Cops had to live in New York City, even though many didn't want to. The only exception was for Transit Cops, because the Transit Authority covered Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. So many cops working some overtime shifts for the subway, got themselves declared auxiliary transit cops, and moved to Garrison, New Jersey. While a lot of New York City cops live there, the local police force is led by Sheriff Freddy Heflin.

We first meet Sheriff Heflin on his birthday. He's celebrating by hanging out at the Four Aces, the local cop bar, getting drunk and trying to break the record on the pinball machine, while getting progressively drunker. Eventually, one of his friends, Gary "Figgsy" Figgis, gets him to go home for the night. Figgsy is one of the few cops, that call Garrison home, to respect Freddy. Most of the rest of the cops consider him just a small town sheriff and being NYPD makes them better than he is. The drive home for Freddy is a bit more exciting than it should be. Not only is he drunk, he's nearly asleep. So when a deer runs across the street, he's unable to keep control of his car and ends up in the ditch.

Freddy isn't the only cop living in Garrison whose had too much to drink that night. Murray 'Superboy' Babitch is at a bachelor party for a fellow cop, when he decides to call it a night. He doesn't even get into his car, when he hears what sounds like someone being stabbed. He grabs his gun from his glove compartment and investigates, only to find out it's a couple of his fellow cops, one of which is puking his guts out. A little rattled, he continues driving home, only to be sideswiped by another car. He catches up to them and tries to get them to pull over, but the passenger pulls out a wheel lock and shouts, "Bang, bang!" Superboy slams on the brakes, only to have his front tire blowout. Thinking he was actually shot at, he returns fire killing both the driver and the passenger, before crashing into their car on the George Washington Bridge. Ray Donlan, his uncle and superior officer, arrives, along with Leo Crasky, another cop higher up the chain of command. After a number of racially charged incidents, they are worried the D.A. will be forced to indict Superboy, even though Superboy has a good reputation for working with the African-American community. Their first plan is to plant a gun, but when Jack is caught by the paramedics while doing so, Superboy freaks out and jumps off the bridge.

The next day, Moe Tilden from internal affairs starts an investigation and right away he's sure Superboy didn't jump. He's right. We quickly see Ray and Jack sneak the supposedly dead cop into Garrison passed Freddy and Cindy Bretts, his new deputy. Moe comes into Garrison to shake things up, but also to talk to Freddy. He wants wants to know if Freddy knows anything about corrupt cops. At first, Freddy is reluctant to help and it looks like the cops will get away with covering up Superboy's faked suicide. But when they learn that without a body, Moe's never going to close the case, they have decided they need a body and Superboy has to die.

This is when Superboy comes to Freddy for help. Now it's time for him to decide between his loyalty to his fellow cops and cleaning up his town.

The cast for this film is amazing. Among the main ensemble, there are four Oscar nominees, six Golden Globe nominees, five Emmy nominees and plenty of winners. Sylvester Stallone plays against type and he's great in the lead. The story moves very slowly for the most part, but this helps make the film more dramatically weighty. Instead of making the film a thriller about Freddy cleaning up Garrison and taking out all of the corrupt cops, we instead spend time learning about a man whose moment of glory was a long time ago and it is also his biggest moment of regret. The character study portions of the movie, and there are several I didn't discuss to avoid spoilers, elevate the film and keeps it from being just another cop action film. It's a lot more nuanced, at least until the climax.

Yes, the climax is more or less typical action film fodder. It is well done, especially the use of Freddy's deafness and this adds to the style and effectiveness, but it is arguably the weakest part of the film.

The Extras

The Blu-ray is shovelware with the audio commentary track, making of featurette, two deleted scenes, and a storyboard-to-screen comparison. It's a good selection for this type of release. It was a relatively low budget film, after all. As for the video and audio presentation, they are a bit mixed. The film was made about 15 years ago for only $15 million, so you can't expect it to look as good as a first-run release made today would look. Some scenes look noticeably better than others. It is not quite to the point where it is a distraction, but if you are paying attention to the video quality, you will notice it. At its best, the details are sharp, the colors are strong, the blacks are deep. At its weaker moments, there's a little too much grain, the picture is a little soft, there are a few signs of print damage, etc. Still it looks better than it did on DVD. The audio is solid, if uncomplicated for the most part. The film is mostly dialogue driven, but when called for, there's good use of the surround sound speakers and the bass. The climax is especially well done in the audio department. Finally, the film only costs $11 on Blu-ray, which is a good deal for this type of release.

The Verdict

Cop Land takes a rather common story of police corruption, adds several interesting elements and mixes in a enviable cast. The end result is a film that is absolutely worth checking out. The Blu-ray is shovelware and it is not the best looking Blu-ray I've seen. However, it is a step up from the DVD and at just $11, it's worth picking up.


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