Much has been made of the fact that Sly Stallone gained 40 pounds and worked for union wages for "Cop Land," but that's exactly what he needed to do. Not since the '70s have we been privy to gentle, vulnerable schnook Stallone portrayed in the early "Rocky" years. Loping from one scene to the next, he's actually the best thing about "Cop Land," which is a mean feat, given the competition.
The setting is present-day "Garrison, New Jersey"—a fictional town created out of whole cloth by a bunch of NYPD cops who wanted to live somewhere untouched by the crime they were fighting in Manhattan. That many guys in blue in one place always means trouble, the movie seems to say. Leave it to police captain Harvey Keitel to run the town like an ersatz mob boss. Stallone, partially deaf since rescuing his high school sweetheart from drowning, has spent his life as the puppet sheriff of Garrison, turning a blind eye to Keitel's horror even while longing desperately to be a real cop.
Robert DeNiro, sporting Rupert Pupkin's hair and moustache from "The King of Comedy" is a crusading FBI agent on Keitel's trail, and though there's not much of him in the movie, his conversations with Stallone are satisfying, if only to see the two actors work together on something decent. And the final sequence, a silent shoot-out that is part Hitchcock and part "High Noon," is a wonderfully stylized bit of filmmaking.
If the rest of this movie measured up, we'd really be on to something. But "Cop Land" never really delivers the knockout punch. Too many cooks in the kitchen? Too many movies with the same people playing the same roles? Or is Stallone's character just too frustratingly slow? With great bit parts from Michael Rappaport and Ray Liotta, "Cop Land" is a smorgasbord of good stuff that just doesn't feel like a meal.
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