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Action hero extraordinaire Sylvester Stallone headlines James Mangold's Director's Cut of this edgy crime thriller that explodes with an all-star cast - including Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta. Freddy Heflin (Stallone) is the sheriff of a small and seemingly peaceful town populated by the big-city police officers he's long admired. But when he uncovers a massive, deadly conspiracy among these local residents, he is forced to make a dangerous choice between protecting his idols and upholding the law.

 Cop Land
For some reason I've always overlooked Cop Land and never took the time to watch it. I was a bit young to watch it when it came out in 1997, but I've watched everything James Mangold has directed since. I've found something that I like about every one of his movies, and now I can say the same goes for Cop Land. I can't remember caring this much about any character that Sylvester Stallone has played (though I'm not much of a Rocky fan). He underplays it, almost like an anti-Rambo, and it works. The supporting cast is good too, filled with veterans like De Niro, Liotta, and Keitel, but most of their talents go to waste. The script is well written, but the narrative spreads the characters thin without giving any particular one the amount of attention and dimensionality they deserve. The corrupt cops are all essentially the same character with slightly different appearances and ages. Liotta's character is the sole exception, somewhere between the two opposing forces. Unfortunately the solid performances and a couple well-written characters just weren't enough to save the plot from becoming a slow burning routine police corruption plot.

 Cop Land
The film does get a lot of things right. Even though Mangold's screenplay is flawed, he is a more than competent director and he's backed up by a chilling score from Howard Shore. There's a scene near the beginning where one bad thing is happening after another, and if things were left to the script it would be a somewhat outrageous and implausible set of circumstances, but the score hovers oppressively over the scene; suspending a feeling of dread and tension that otherwise may not have held. As the story unfolds further, a lot of things happen. There's corruption, betrayal, violence, and fine performances to back it up. If I were to tell you the entire plot it might sound like a good movie, but somehow all these things make very little impact. I can't quite pinpoint where my indifference to what was happening on screen came from. My best theory is that without well-rounded characters and a tighter script, I just didn't care about what was happening. The movie's final moments are quite good, and at last I was able to see the "urban western" genre the Mangold describes the film under. Overall the movie came out slightly on top. I can't see myself revisiting it again soon, but I'm glad I saw it and it was refreshing to see Stallone play different role.

 Cop Land

Video


Lionsgate has given Mangold's debut a fine 1080p transfer for its Blu-ray release. Aside from some occasional damage marks and skin tones that are slightly on the red side, there isn't much to complain about here. The entire film has a natural soft grain over it that gives it an attractive filmic look. As with a lot of older 35 mm films, the grain really only gets harsh and unattractive in large areas of light colour, like the sky. Black levels are fine if not exactly reference level. Given the films age, detail is very sharp. You can pause the film and count every bump and pore on Stallone's face if you want to. There is definitely a little edge enhancement going on that makes noticeable halos from time to time, but its not applied too liberally. It's not quite perfect, but the image is a lot better than I anticipated.

Audio


To match the fine video transfer, Lionsgate has included a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track with some real "oomf" to it. Car crashes and gun shots are loud and occupy multiple speakers to make sure you feel the impact, and LFE channel appropriately joins in. Howard Shore's ominous score has a lot of depth and bass to it. It's still harrowing and doesn't wreak of that 90's sound that many dramas from that era are stuck with. Voice levels are fine for the most part, but in some of the more chaotic scenes some lines get drowned out by the overbearing soundtrack. I noticed plenty of spatial effects during driving scenes, but they're very subtle and never call attention to themselves (perhaps a good thing). One of the more evident uses of the surround speakers is towards the end when a character has some ringing in their ears. The noise travels all over the place from speaker to speaker and it is effectively disorienting.

 Cop Land

Extras


Much like the other Lionsgate Miramax catalogue releases, the extras here are ported over from the Miramax director's cut DVD. Things kick off with an audio commentary track from James Mangold, producer Cathy Konrad, Sylvester Stallone and Robert Patrick. They talk about how they got involved in the project. Stallone admits to being tired of action star roles and that he wanted to do something significantly different. Mangold makes a lot of comments about being a young director and how he learned a lot working with these extraordinary actors. For the most part it is just your usual reminiscing. Fans may find it worth putting on during some of their favourite scenes.

Cop Land: The Making of an Urban Western (SD, 14:21): This is your typical "making of" filled with filmmaker's interviews and brief scenes from the film. They mostly cover the origin of the script and share their thoughts on what they think the movie is really about thematically.

Storyboard Comparison (SD, 1:59): This is a breakdown of the climactic scene of the movie where see the original storyboard stills next to the filmed footage. The resemblance to the original storyboard is very impressive.

Deleted Scenes (SD): There are two of them. The first (03:14) involves a group of cops who decide to ditch their friendly baseball game to chase down some suspected criminals in their off-duty cars. The second (01:39) is a scene of Stallone and Janeane Garofalo's character talking about the state of the police force while watching monster trucks on TV. The feature commentators weigh in on a separate audio track.

 Cop Land

Overall


I've got mixed feelings about Cop Land. There are a lot of things working for it, including a great leading performance from Sylvester Stallone and a whole slew of veteran actors doing what they do best. I really wanted to like it, but in the end I couldn't help but feel indifferent towards the whole affair. Perhaps in time it will grow on me. Lionsgate brings the film to the Blu-ray format with a surprisingly sharp 1080p transfer and an impactful audio track to complement it. Extras are ported over from the special edition DVD but they are still reasonably interesting.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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